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Thermal transfer or direct thermal: Which printer is best for your warehouse?

You have two choices of printing methods to produce bar code labels: thermal transfer and direct thermal. Each one has advantages so you need to understand the technology before you choose the printer that’s best for your warehouse operation.

Thermal transfer uses a printer ribbon that is heated (thermal) in the print process and then transfers ink from the ribbon to the label media. The images are long-lasting and can be output to a wide range of media choices (paper and synthetic). Thermal transfer is the printing method of choice for permanent labeling needs.

Direct thermal does not use a ribbon but imprints directly to the label media, which is specially coated for this method. The heat from the printhead reacts with that coating and burns the image to the label. Direct thermal labels are sensitive to heat and other conditions, and they will deteriorate so they are best suited for short-term applications, like shipping labels, picking/putaway labels, and receipts. Direct thermal media is more expensive than thermal transfer bar code labels, but the fact that you don’t have to purchase ribbons contributes to a lower cost of ownership.

Talk to us at Ryzex about your specific warehouse printing tasks and we can offer the solutions that best fit your needs, budget, and footprint. We have partnered with Zebra, the global leader in bar code printing technology, so we can offer a wide variety of options.

Which option did you choose: thermal transfer or direct thermal, and why? Has it lived up to your expectations? If you could make the choice all over again, would you pick the same printer? Please post your thoughts here!


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