Automatic Identification & Data Collection, more commonly known as AIDC, is a popular technology used for running businesses smoothly. These systems are a great way to automate or at least optimize supply chain management. One such technology is barcodes, which can be created using two printing methods. In this blog, we will discuss Thermal Transfer Printing, or more accurately, Wax and Resin Barcode Ribbons.
So, let’s get to it.
What are Barcode Ribbons?
These are thin films of PET plastic, where one of their sides is layered with an adhesive coating made of wax/resin plus ink/coloring. These ribbons are an essential component of barcode creating process known as, thermal transfer printing.
Barcode ribbons are very popular throughout the industry for their specific advantages and ease of use over traditional Direct Thermal printing. Like their high resistance to heat and physical damage, sharper image resolutions, higher DPI, etc.
Brief Introduction to Thermal Transfer Printing
Before taking a deeper look into the two ribbon types, let us have a quick overview of the printing technique they are used with. Thermal transfer printing works by transferring heat from the printer onto the ribbon to imprint barcodes.
There are two components that are needed to create a TTR print, namely – label, and ribbon. The label can be made of materials like polyimide, paper, vinyl, etc., all with different properties. Inside the printer, there is a set of rollers that stretch the label and ribbon rolls.
The printhead presses the ribbon against the label, with the ink side pressed firmly against the label surface. The heating pins on the head then heat the backside of the ribbon, the heat transfer melts the adhesive layer in a pattern & imprints it on the label.
Types of Barcode Ribbons
As discussed above, the ribbons themselves are made of a thin film of PET plastic. The difference comes due to the material used to make the adhesive layer. There are two materials manufacturers use to make barcode ribbons, namely – Wax and Resin. There is also a midway between the two, known as the Wax-Resin Ribbons, where the adhesive coating is made of a mixture of wax and resin.
The Major Differences between Wax and Resin Ribbons are:
Both types of ribbons are preferable to use under different circumstances, depending on their environment, operation size, application, etc. So, let’s have a comparison between the two types of ribbons.
TTR printing is vastly more expensive than direct thermal, due to the additional cost of ribbons. But, even in TTR, both types of ribbons have different costs. Wax ribbons are significantly cheaper.
These are the most expensive type of barcode printing methods, simply, due to the increased cost of manufacturing a resin-based adhesive layer.
Barcode ribbons provide excellent quality prints that can operate for a long time. Wax prints can last for a couple of years, and provide good resistance against scratching, smudges & chemical damage.
On the other hand, Resin provides the best durability out of any other print type. Resin adhesive on vinyl labels is completely resistant to scratching and smudges, and if kept carefully can last 3 – 5 years.
These are resistant to the effect of heat and sunlight, and take a couple of years to fade. Which is far better than direct thermal labels.
The prints made using resin ribbons are completely invulnerable to fading from heat or sunlight exposure.
Perfect for scenarios where you need a decent amount of resistance against physical damage and heat/sunlight, but do not spend an exorbitant amount.
These ribbons are good for long-term applications, where you need the barcode protected against scratches, smudges, chemical damage & extreme temperatures.
As you already know by now, based on performance, the clear winner is the Resin ribbon. However, during implementation and investment, performance is not the only thing that counts. For example, Resin Ribbons also are the most expensive type of barcode. Making their cost become a problem with the growth of the business and asset volumes
So, before making your decision, give this blog a good read to know which ribbon to choose from.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What is a resin ribbon?
Ans - It is a type of Thermal Transfer Ribbon, used for printing barcodes on labels. It is named such because the ink on these ribbons is dissolved in an adhesive layer made of resin.
Q2. Is resin rubber or plastic?
Ans - None, while some resins are a type of plastic, in general terms, Resin is a synthetic polymer created using organic compounds.
Q3. What is thermal transfer ribbon used for?
Ans - The only purpose of a Thermal Transfer Ribbon (TTR) is to imprint barcode images on labels, using a TTR printer. These are one of two types of commonly used methods for printing barcodes, the other being Direct Thermal printing. Thermal transfer ribbons provide a far more durable and sharper final product; however, they are also significantly more expensive and difficult to operate.