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Thermal Transfer vs Direct Thermal

What is the difference between thermal transfer and direct thermal?
by Timmy Thermal

Here at Midcom we talk a lot about thermal printing. As one of our specialities is thermal printer repair and thermal printer repair service plans, you can rest assured that anything thermal is a priority for all of us. We may be masters of the thermal printer knowledge, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily are. Lucky for you and your growing business, I’ve decided to lay out all the comparisons and contrasts between direct thermal printing and thermal transfer printing today in a simple blog so you will be able to make an informed decision as to which kind of printing will be most beneficial for your company’s needs.

Let’s start out with the colors available. When talking about colors, direct thermal printing will normally be restricted to black print normally, but there are special chromatic inks made especially for them which you can purchase additionally. Thermal transfer, on the other hand, has the ability to print labels in many colors with no restrictions. So if color is a priority for you, it would probably be best to go with a thermal transfer printer.

Then shelf life of your labels is another thing you may want to consider. Direct thermal printing labels will be good for a year or less, so the printing you do on these labels will work perfectly for temporary projects that will be finished in the short term. Thermal transfer printers can create labels, in comparison, that have a shelf life for well over a year and will be better for long term projects.

Sunlight can affect a direct thermal label, causing your label to erase the content which you printed on it. If you’re going to use a direct thermal label, I would recommend that you make sure the labels are not going to be subject to direct sunlight, or put outside since they cannot withstand such elements. Thermal transfer printing labels can withstand heat and sunlight just fine, making them more versatile in outdoor applications.

If you’re starting to think direct thermal printing labels are perhaps too fragile for your company’s usage, consider this. Direct thermal labels are perfect for shipping labels, because they print very easily and with ribbon or ink, so shipping will be a breeze. They are also used in libraries for due date labels, and plenty of receipts use direct thermal printing in retail environments.

For day to day use direct thermal printing is a perfect utility for sending along receipts and notes to your customers. Thermal transfer printing would be better suited for outdoor applications, marking warehouse area, and for product labels on your inventory. Thermal transfer labels are also going to be necessary if you want to print them on special substrates, like foils, cardstocks, or films. Keep these qualities in mind when you decide which kind of label you want to invest in.

Now that you’re a master at differentiating the distinction between thermal transfer and direct thermal, you’re up to speed on your labels. If you still interested in custom made labels, Midcom has a package perfect for everyone, so go check out their custom labels page, If you’re interested in more tips, service package reviews, and educational information like this one, make sure to follow us at Midcom’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and our new Google+ or download our free thermal printer maintenance eBook.

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