The most widely spread technology used by barcode printers is the thermal technology, which is divided in two categories, direct thermal and thermal transfer printing. The first one uses heat sensitive media that turns black when comes into contact with heat. It does not use ink or a ribbon, so is noted for its simplicity.

Barcode printers using direct thermal technology have several advantages and some disadvantages. They produce sharp print quality and are ideal for applications that require labels only for a short period of time. For instance, they are perfect to print shipment labels but not to print product labels. This technology is very simple to operate because there is no ink, toner or ribbon to replenish or change. This also means maintenance costs for this kind of barcode printers are low because there are no supplies to replace. Even more, due to availability of recyclable materials this thermal printers offer environmental economy.

Printings using thermal transfer barcode printers are very durable. They are impervious to heat and moisture, and also the image cannot be rubbed off. For all these qualities this technology is the most durable in the market today. But there are more benefits, for instance, continuity of the image on every label. Unfortunately, this technology has some limitations. Since these barcode printers require ribbon, supply costs are higher. Also, thermal transfer ribbon is normally not a good candidate for recycling, causing a direct impact on the environment.

Finally, the point is that there is no technology better than the other, they are just different and each one is most suitable for different kind of applications. Deciding which printers are better will depend on the business process they are intended to support. If for example you are in the shipping business, you will probably need direct thermal due to its simplicity and low cost, but also because you won’t need durability for the labels.

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