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Thermal Transfer Printing

10 October 2014

For those who do not know what 'thermal transfer' means? Today, we're going to tell you all about thermal transfer printing and how they are used, keeping the information as simple as possible

Firstly, you need to understand that thermal printing and thermal transfer printing are two different things. A standard thermal printer applies heat to the paper, turning some parts black to form text or images (note that thermal printers use rolls of paper that are specifically designed for this purpose). 

Thermal printers are most commonly found in shops, where they are used for customer receipts; since thermal printing needs no ink or toner, it's a very economical option in this context.

However, labels that are created via direct thermal printing are not designed to last, and that's where thermal transfer printing comes in. Instead of applying heat directly to the paper, thermal transfer printers apply heat to an ink ribbon, which then transfers ink onto the paper.

One downside is that you have to refill your printer with a new ribbon from time to time. Still, if you are making labels for inventory asset tagging, or barcoding the extra expense is well worth it - thermal transfer labels last a lot longer than standard thermal labels, and they're far more scratch- and abrasion-resistant too.


  • Direct thermal labels are low-priced, but not suitable for long-term applications
  • Thermal transfer labels are far more durable and less prone to fading – suitable for long-term use

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