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Zebra Thermal Label Printer

Which Thermal Printer is Right For You?

Post Series: Hardware

Thermal Transfer vs. Direct Thermal

A barcode printer is a valuable investment for any business that relies on data collection. For consistent quality and performance, choose a thermal barcode label printer, because it’s purpose-built—unlike ink jet or laser printers that simply can’t deliver the quality and durability. Thermal printers use one of two types of printing technology: direct thermal or thermal transfer.These thermal printer options are the first step in ensuring your inventory is labeled properly.

Which printer is right for you?

The decision comes down to the application. What type of labels and tags will you produce and, more importantly, where will they be used? In order to choose between direct thermal and thermal transfer printers, you need to understand what they can deliver. For most industrial uses Panatrack will recommend clients use a thermal transfer printer when not using belt mounted printers.

Direct Thermal Printer

A direct thermal printer uses a printhead that heats up and then contacts with chemically-treated media that reacts to this heat, causing a color change. Direct thermal media is very sensitive to light so if you need temporary labels or receipts, this printer is an economical choice, because it’s less expensive and doesn’t require the use of ink, toner, or a ribbon. With fewer parts, it’s easier to service than a thermal transfer printer. However, a direct thermal printhead, which is a costly part, has a shorter lifespan because it contacts directly with the media.

Thermal Transfer

This two-step printing process applies the heat from the printhead to a ribbon, which then transfers the image to the media. The ribbons are available in three types: wax, resin, and wax/resin. A wax ribbon is suited for printing on a paper facestock, with little or no exposure to light, chemicals, or moisture. A resin ribbon is designed to print on synthetic materials to produce labels that comply with UL/cUL rating and stand up to harsh chemicals and abrasives. The wax/resin ribbon produces the most durable label, on synthetic media and with UL/cUL approval.

Thermal transfer printers require a ribbon, which is an extra cost, but provide a more lasting barcode image and label.

With the Printhead Protection Program from Panatrack, you pay nothing for printhead replacements, as long as you use genuine Zebra supplies. This choice not only saves you about $400 per printhead, but also extends the life of your printer, and reduces downtime and repair costs.

Before you invest in a thermal printer, talk to us at Panatrack. We’ll make sure to match the printer to your needs, so you have a lasting solution.

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