Thermal Transfer Vs Direct Thermal Labels

Proper and effective labelling is a mandatory requirement in most supply chain processes.  There are many different types of labels used for different applications, and determining which type suits your needs best, can be challenging. Read on to learn about the difference between thermal transfer labels and direct thermal labels, so you can ensure you’re choosing the most suitable type for your application.

Thermal Transfer (TT) Labels

How do they work?

Thermal Transfer labels require heat to produce an image. A thermal ribbon is placed onto the label at the printhead,  which then acts as a buffer between the printhead section, and the material of the label.  The printhead area then heats up and begins transferring the ink that’s on the ribbon, onto the label.

What are they used for?

Printing using the thermal transfer method produces high-quality images and dark text for clarity. This process is best known for its quick speed, user-friendliness, and overall effectiveness.  TT labels are best for long-life applications. They are scratch resistant, rub resistant, and can last up to two years. TT labels are more durable than direct thermal labels, and can adapt to exposure from sunlight, heat, and chemicals, much better than other labels.

TT labels are your go-to if you are looking to print healthcare industry labels, such as laboratory labels, or inventory identification labels. TT labels are also used for industrial, chemical, and warehouse labelling.


Direct Thermal (DT) Labels

How do they work?

Direct Thermal labels are made from heat-sensitive paper that has ink embedded within the material. These do not require a ribbon, ink, or toner. DT labels produce desired text or image by a process where the synthetic base of the paper meets the hot temperature of the printhead, and then changes its colour before cooling down.

What are they used for?

DT labels are most suited for short to medium life applications. These work well in a low-heat and high-moisture environments, which means they’re great for packages in the frozen/chilled food sectors. DT labels are simple to use, cost effective, and have a high productivity rate as there are no ribbon changes. DT labels are suitable for most common requirements.

DT labels are great for shipping, warehouse, and dispatch labels. They are also a perfect solution for inserts, tags, cards, and retail price labelling.

Fun fact: To check if it’s a thermal transfer or direct thermal label, take the label and scratch it quickly and hardly with your fingernail. If a dark mark appears, it is a direct thermal label, and if no dark mark appears, that means it’s a thermal transfer label!

Keypak offers labels, ribbons, along with data servers and printers, for all your essential packaging label requirements.

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