Although several technologies are available nowadays, most label printers use thermal techniques (heat application) in order to print. The way heat is applied -and where it is applied- is what makes the difference regarding these technologies.

Direct Thermal Label Printers (DTPs) use a thermal print head to print the image directly on the label. During that process thermal paper –heat sensitive paper- is exposed to controlled heat application in order to create the desired image. Thermal paper reacts with heat turning black (or red, depending on heat levels and paper characteristics) and that way the image is printed in the paper. Conventional label printers use thermal print heads to transmit heat into the thermo-sensible paper. In is important to mention that thermal paper is very sensitive to heat on the long run so printed material obtained with this technology is not very long lasting. Nevertheless, compared to other technologies DTP printing is relatively cheap.

Thermal Transfer Label Printers (TTPs) use ink ribbons to transfer images into the label. During the process the ink ribbons are melted over the surface on which the printing is taking place (labels in this particular case). Ink ribbons are usually made of different types of wax or resin materials, depending on specific printing requirements. TTP lasts much longer than DTP printed material but it is more expensive on the other hand. The most common use for label printers that use TTP technology is for bar code printing given that bar code labels require being durable and resilient.

There are several types of label printers available on the market. Desktop label printers, the cheapest and more commonly used, are designed for light to medium duty usage and are the one most commonly found in offices and retail shops. Commercial label printers usually hold larger stock rolls, and are capable of handling medium work loads and are almost as silent as the desktop printers. On the other hand, industrial label printers are designed for heavy duty work and are usually used in factories, distribution centres and huge warehouses. They can handle enormous amounts of work and a great speed but tend to be much noisier than their smaller counterparts.

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