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Barcode Printer: Thermal Transfer or Direct Thermal Printing

By aisltd, Monday, 30th August 2021 | 0 comments
Filed under: Publications.

When it comes to choosing a barcode printer, there is often a lot of competition between thermal transfer and direct thermal printing. In this article, our experts are going to look at which one is best for you.

The first thing you need to do, is figure out what you need your barcodes to do. Do you need long-lasting barcodes that will identify products or do you need barcodes with shorter shelf lives such as tickets, receipts, or shipping labels?

If you don’t know the difference between thermal transfer and direct thermal printing, it can be difficult to choose the right barcode printer. To help with this we detail both options below.

Thermal Transfer Printing Explained

A barcode printer that uses thermal transfer printing will use a heated print head and a thin ribbon that creates high-quality barcode labels that will last. The ribbons in these barcode printers have a wax or resin coating on one site and when the thermal transfer label passes through the printer the heat from the print head melts the wax or resin onto the label. This produces high-definition images. If you want durable, long lasting labels, thermal transfer barcode printers are the preferred choice.

Direct Thermal Printing Explained

Direct thermal barcode printers also use the print head, but instead of using ribbons to transfer the ink, they create the image on the label itself. These printers use chemically treated, heat sensitive media that turns black when it is passed under the heated print head. There are no ribbons, ink, or toner required. The maintenance costs are lower as well.

Thermal Transfer Barcode Printers or Direct Thermal Printers

Both of the above have advantages and disadvantages which we look at below so you can decide which barcode printer will work best for your business.

Thermal transfer barcode printers are best for long-term applications and suit a rugged industrial environment. They can also be used in extreme conditions both indoors and outdoors. They are ideal for product identification, asset tagging, cold storage and freezers, etc. These barcode label printers produce superior quality labels that are accurate and include high definition text. They can also produce graphics, barcodes, and are consistent every time. They produce tough, long lasting labels and can print 1D and 2D barcodes. The operating costs are low too. There are higher supply expenses and it costs more to have these installed.

Direct thermal barcode printers are best for short-term applications and one-time usage. The barcode labels are suitable for indoor use only within controlled temperatures. They don’t do well with exposure to heat or long periods of direct sunlight. They are ideal for shipping labels, receipts, tickets, coupons, name tags, etc. These barcode printers are simple and easy to use. They print directly onto the label and there are no ribbon, toner, or ink required. They produce good quality scannable barcodes and quality images. They are affordable too with low maintenance costs. The labels can fade over time especially if they are exposed to heat or light. They are less rugged that thermal transfer labels and are not recommended for lifetime identification applications.

Now that you know the difference between these two barcode printers, the next step is to visit our website and choose the thermal transfer or direct thermal barcode printer for you.


Automatic Identification Systems Ltd


Automatic Identification Systems Ltd
Unit 35 Eastgate Drive,
Little Island, Cork,  
T45 C925, Ireland

Phone: +353 (0)21 2355540


AIS Automation Ltd
Unit 5B, Aiken Business Park
Old Coes Road
Dundalk A91 XW5C, Ireland

Phone: +353 (0)42 935992


AIS Vision Systems S.L
Carrer de Can Camps, 10
08202 Sabadell,
Barcelona, Spain

Phone: +34 931 003 035


AIS-Scanology B.V. 
Laan de Wijze 20,
5835 DS Beugen
The Netherlands

Phone: +31 (0)485-561616

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