How to Choose the Right Thermal Ribbon for your Label Printer

Posted June 25, 2015

Thermal transfer printing provides for a longer lasting print as compared to direct thermal printing. The reason thermal transfer prints last longer is due to the use of a thermal transfer ribbon during the printing process.  A thermal transfer ribbon is required to obtain a long lasting print.  However, choosing the proper thermal transfer ribbon to fit your printer and application can be difficult.  Help choosing the correct thermal transfer ribbon has arrived!

Follow the simple steps below to identify the proper ribbon:

Step 1: Ensure you have a Thermal Transfer Printer

Ribbon is only used with Thermal Transfer printers.  A ribbon cannot be used with a Direct Thermal printers as they do not have the proper internal mechanical components to hold or thread the ribbon.

Step 2: Determine the proper ribbon size. 

Ribbons are measured, width by length (WxL):

  • Width: Many printers have different print widths. A 6 inch width ribbon will not fit into a printer with a 4 inch print width.  Choose the width of ribbon that is equal to or less than your printers print width.
  • Length: The length of a ribbon will indicate the numbers of inches that 1 roll will print. For example: a ribbon with a length of 244 inches will have enough ribbon to print 244, 1 inch long labels or 122, 2 inch long labels. Choose the proper length based on the inches needed for your desired print.

Step 3: Choose a ribbon material:

  • Wax Ribbon – Most cost effective version of ribbon. Suggested for printing shipping and packaging labels, retail tags and retail labels. A wax ribbon print will last significantly longer than a direct thermal print.  Recommended to be used with paper labels. Most ribbon will print in black.  However, if a need for a specific color print arises, choose a color ribbon.
  • Wax/Resin Ribbon – A mixture/hybrid of wax/resin in a ribbon offers exceptional print quality and scratch resistance/smudge proof. Suggested uses are for asset tracking in rough our outdoor locations, warehouse signage and medical device tracing.  Recommended to be used on a wide range of paper and mid-range synthetic label stocks.
  • Resin Ribbon – This type of ribbon is the most durable longest lasting choice.  Typically this choice is used to asset track products that are exposed to many different environments. Resin prints are able to withstand water, chemicals, abrasions, oil and greases. Suggested to be used with durable synthetic labels.

The above simple steps provide the correct direction for choosing ribbon based on application and desired results.  You can also contact one of our knowledgeable sales representatives who are standing by to provide assistance for choosing the correct ribbon.

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