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Thermal Transfer Ribbons

All About Thermal Transfer: 

Why would you choose thermal transfer over other variable imaging technologies? In general compared to thermal transfer:

 • Is more complex mechanically
 • Is more expensive to buy machines
 • Provides poorer image quality
 • Cannot print on as many materials

 • Takes longer to print
 • Has poorer color quality
 • Has poorer image stability
 • Cannot print on as many materials
 •
Is less light stable

 • Fades over time
 • Requires special paper
 • Cannot be exposed to heat or direct sunlight
 • Reduces printhead life
 • Cannot print in full color

 • Is more expensive per print
 • Is less energy efficient
 • Is less light stable


What is Thermal Transfer Printing?

Thermal transfer printers apply voltage to a printhead that consists of 200 to 600 resistive heating elements per linear inch of printhead (dpi - dots per inch). This resistive material is covered by a thin coating or "glaze" that protects the heating elements from abrasion as the thermal transfer ribbon makes contact with it.

The line of printhead elements is in direct pressure contact with the back side of the thermal transfer ribbon. The ink side of the ribbon is in direct contact with the receiver or label stock. This ribbon and receiver "sandwich" is driven by a rubber-covered platen roller under the printhead print line at a speed consistent with the heating cycle time of the printhead.

Heat from the printing elements raise the ink to a temperature above its melting point. The molten ink transfers from the ribbon to the receiver and adheres to it. Together, the ribbon and receiver continue to move from under the printhead for a short distance before the ribbon and receiver separate. It is at this point that the image is formed.


What is the Difference Between Wax, Wax/Resin and Resin Ribbons?

Ribbons typically contain a high percentage of wax-based materials. These materials contribute to the melting point of the ribbon which affect the amount of energy necessary to print. Since the waxes we use, in general, have lower melting points than the resins used, printing with wax ribbons typically requires less energy than printing with wax/resin or resin ribbons. Since most waxes used tend to be softer than the resins used, image durability for wax ribbons is typically less than that of wax/resin and resin ribbons. Most wax ribbons are made up of only one layer.

Ribbons typically contain higher percentages of resinous materials. These materials contribute to a higher "melting" point of the ribbons. Printing with these ribbons typically requires more energy than printing with wax ribbons. Since most resins used tend to be harder than the waxes used, image durability (and some chemical resistance) for wax/resin ribbons are made up of two or more layers.

Ribbons typically contain the highest percentages of resinous materials. Printing with these ribbons typically requires more energy than printing with either wax or wax/resin ribbons. Since most resins used tend to be harder than the waxes used, the higher levels of these resins contribute to the excellent abrasion and chemical resistance for resin ribbons. Most resin ribbons are made up of two or more layers.

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What are the Basic Classifications for Tag & Label Thermal Transfer Ribbons?

These are typically wax-based ribbons that print well on a variety of coated and some uncoated paper receivers, as well as some synthetics. Image durability for these ribbons is acceptable for applications where little physical contact with the printed image is likely to occur or where image life is short term (shipping labels). These ribbons are usually the least expensive.

These are typically wax/resin ribbons that print well on a variety of coated and synthetic receivers. Image durability for these ribbons is excellent for application where physical contact with the printed image is likely to occur repeatedly. Some resistance to mild chemicals and cleaners is provided. Typical applications include pharmaceutical, "shelf talker" and chemical drum labels. Ribbon pricing is mid-range

These are typically resin ribbons that print well on a variety of synthetic and specialty receivers. Image durability for these ribbons is excellent for applications where harsh physical contact with the printed image is likely to occur repeatedly. Excellent resistance to a variety of chemicals and cleaners is provided. Typical use includes outdoor and long-life applications like electrical box and integrated circuit board labeling. Ribbon pricing is typically higher based on the materials used and the number of ribbon layers needed.

These are typically wax/resin or resin ribbons that are designed to work in particular applications. Image durability for these ribbons is excellent on their intended receiver. These ribbons typically focus on a particular application like fabric printing where washability is required or on tags and labels where steam resistance is critical. Ribbon pricing can vary based on the materials used and the number of ribbon layers needed.
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What Level of Ultraviolet (U.V.) Light Resistance do our ribbons Offer?

Since all our ribbons use pigment-based colorants, our products offer better U.V. resistance than dye-based colorants used in ink jet printing.

Carbon Black is the pigment used as the colorant for all of our black ribbons, including wax, wax/resin, and resin products. Carbon Black is a very light-stable pigment. Images produced with these ribbons will not fade readily when exposed to either indoor or outdoor UV light. Images printed with these ribbons will be readable and scannable over a period of years depending upon the location (temperature and humidity) and angle of sun or light exposure.

Our color ribbons use a variety of different pigments as colorants. Some of these pigments are more UV light-stable than others. Black, blue, and green colors, in general, are more light-stable than yellow, red and orange colors.

Our DuraCoat (DC-300) line of color ribbons designed for outdoor sign printing applications offers the best UV light resistance. Pigments selected for this product line are "automotive grade." Depending upon the vinyl receiver selected, printed images can last for 5 - 7 years.

Our DC-100, DC-200, DC-400, and NET line of color ribbons claim no level of U.V. light resistance.


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