Three Thermal Ribbon Types Can Create a Picture Worth a Thousand Words

Posted by Cheryl Lininger on Jun 21, 2017 2:39:00 PM

In Thermal Printing

Three Simple Questions and Three Thermal Ribbon Types Can Create a Picture Worth a Thousand Words

Are you using the right ribbon? Or just shooting from the hip?

In thermal transfer barcode printing, choosing the right ribbon is the most important part to ensure you will get the best image results. To the uninitiated there appear to be numerous brands and styles of ribbons which can be confusing. In reality there are only three main types we need to consider and three simple questions can eliminate the confusion and make your choice clear.

3 Questions:

  1. What am I am printing on? Are you printing on a coated or uncoated label or tag? Or are you printing on a high-end synthetic that will not tear or be damaged by oils, chemicals, moisture or extreme temperatures?
  2. How long will your image need to last?
  3. What type of conditions will my image need to endure?

Once you have considered these 3 questions, there are 3 types of ribbons to choose from.

  • WAX: Wax ribbons and paper labels or tags work well together. Wax is the cheapest but does not withstand harsh environments, chemicals or extreme abrasion. Wax would be used for shipping labels, retail pricing labels or warehouse WIP labels.
  • WAX-RESIN: A midrange ribbon designed for your tougher applications. Stronger than the wax and is more versatile with the amount of label and tag substrates it can be combined with. Including uncoated paper, coated paper, and matte coated synthetic. The image of the wax-resin ribbon will withstand chemicals and abrasion better than the wax ribbon.
  • RESIN: Resin ribbons are the top of the line, the most durable and also the most expensive. You might compare the wax ribbon to a crayon and the resin to the permanent marker.
    • Resin withstands chemicals, oils, extreme temperature changes, and abrasion better than any other ribbon. Use a resin ribbon on synthetic labels, such as polypropylene, vinyl, gloss polyester, and more.
    • Resin ribbons are often used in automotive and aircraft parts, drum labeling, electronics, etc.

Typically, most mission critical applications need a barcode to be in picture perfect condition for a long period; these require both a top of the line, more expensive material and a high-end ribbon.

A mismatch of these items can cause the image to improperly print or wear off, resulting in a barcode that can’t be scanned.

That is not a pretty picture in any business. Especially when it’s your customer who can’t scan your bar code.

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