THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DIRECT THERMAL AND THERMAL TRANSFER
Label printers usually print labels such as barcodes by using either direct thermal or thermal transfer technology. The common feature about both this methods is that there is heat involved in the printing process. Thermal transfer printing uses a heated ribbon to print on the material, while in direct thermal printing there is no ribbon involved and the printing is done directly onto the label material.
Label printers that use direct thermal printing involves low cost and easy maintenance, as it has no ink, toner and ribbon. Its application can be seen in tickets, shipping labels, receipts, wristband and so on. The minus point of this type of label printer is that it can only print on certain materials and the labels produced are not durable.
The lifespan of the labels can only stretch up to a maximum period of one year and if there is presence of humidity or exposure to sunlight the label will fade off even faster. This is not seen as a great disadvantage to label printers that use direct thermal printing because the labels that are printed by this type of printers are not intended for a lifetime identification or use. An obvious example of this would be receipts, as customers will usually throw the receipt away the moment they reach home.
As for label printers that use the thermal transfer printing approach the very fact that heated ribbon is used is to ensure the labels can endure for a longer period of time. This is vital as these label printers print labels such as barcodes, circuit board tracking, permanent identification, sample file tracking and asset tagging. This printer is high maintenance, as it requires consumable parts.
The choice is in the hands of the user to decide which type of printing method would suits his or her needs better as everything has its advantages and disadvantages.