The easiest to overlook but most important part of the barcode printing process is media.
Barcode labels and ribbons come in many textures and sizes so it is best to know what type are best for the design and application of the label. Direct Thermal Labels are printed on a material that reacts to the heated impact of a direct thermal imaging device. The label has a special coating that turns black when the heated pins of the thermal printer strike it, leaving a mark on the paper. Several different coatings are available. It is important to match the coating to the imprinting device for optimum performance.
Thermal Transfer Labels (or indirect thermal) are similar to Direct Thermal labels except for the coating of the material. Thermal Transfer products rely on a coated ribbon in the printer to create the black markings. Thermal Transfer ribbons are available in several different technologies. They can be resin, hard wax, soft wax or other configurations. As in Direct Thermal, the match of ribbon/label material is important to performance.
Many customers ask us why would anyone want to use Thermal Transfer labels if they have to purchase ribbon too. With the Direct Thermal method, the print head is in "direct" contact with heat sensitive paper (i.e. labels), and no ribbon is used. As a result, consumable costs are lower (i.e. no ribbon is consumed), but the print head undergoes substantially more wear and tear. The smooth wax-resin ribbon produces far less friction than paper, so a print head lasts approximately four times longer when printing in Thermal Transfer mode versus Direct Thermal mode. Print heads should be and are considered consumable items - and they add considerably to the overall cost of producing a label.
We sell a wide range of sizes of barcode labels and ribbon for all major manufacturers including generic brands. Contact us to get the correct size for your application and printer.