Thermal transfer and direct thermal labels

What Are Labels?

Thermal labels are an integral part of successful businesses. This type of labelling is responsible for a wide variety of labelling requirements throughout each step of a business’s operations, including storage, inventory, and product information. Companies that invest in quality labels can expect long-lasting, durable labels that stand the test of time and can stay intact regardless of age and exposure.

Consider the information provided here and learn more about how you can use labels for your specific needs.

The Basics

Thermal labels are responsible for providing a very basic requirement, but they are incredibly important to the functioning of a business. While they may not be an integral part of the product itself, they are the workhorse behind the scenes that makes sure every product is marked, organized, and received and shipped correctly.

Companies use thermal labels in the office, warehouse, and shipping departments to ensure that clear, correct information is attached to each product.

Types of Thermal Labels

There are two types of thermal labels that are widely used: Direct Thermal Labels and Thermal Transfer Labels. Both styles are ideal for on-demand applications and use heat to create the necessary images.

There are a few key differences between these labels, including how they’re made and what kinds of items they are best suited for labelling.

Direct Thermal Labels

Direct Thermal Label printers work by applying heat to the thermal print head, which activates the direct thermal media. Direct Thermal Labels are made from a heat-sensitive material which then turns the label dark where the heat is applied to create the image.

With this type of label, there is no ink, toner, or ribbon required.

A limitation of Direct Thermal Labels is that they are not scratch-resistant and will likely start to lose colour contrast when exposed to bright light, or extreme heat, which makes them harder to read. Because the image must be pulled through the label, using label stock other than white or pastels is not advised.  They are often best used for labels required for short-term use, like a shipping label and for those companies who prefer to print without a ribbon, like the healthcare industry.

Examples of Direct Thermal Labels include receipts, shipping labels, name tags, barcodes and passes.

Thermal Transfer Labels

The main difference between a Direct Thermal Label and a Thermal Transfer Labels is that Thermal Transfer Label Printers require a ribbon for printing. Heat is applied to the thermal print head, which transfers the image through a wax or resin ribbon to the label.

Thermal transfer label images are durable and scratch-resistant, which makes them much more ideal for labels that are required to be longer-lasting or that will be exposed to various elements.  For a more durable application, thermal labels can be made of Bi-Oriented Polypropylene, BOPP, rather than paper for a very long-lasting label.

Labels are readily available in a wide range of colours from pastel to fluorescents, which can be helpful for product identification or warehouse applications. Thermal Transfer Ribbons are also available in several different colours if you need your image to be something other than black.

Examples of thermal transfer labels include inventory identification (barcodes) and laboratory specimens, as well as outdoor and freezer applications.

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