There are two main print methods for Thermal Printers, “Direct Thermal” (DT) or “Thermal Transfer” (TT). Each of these methods has very distinct advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the correct option is extremely important. If you choose the wrong option, you risk dealing with damaged labels, or paying far more than you need to for your media.
Direct Thermal Printers use heat-sensitive print media which turns black as it passes through the printer. They print without a ribbon, which means they’re a much less complicated machine. Direct Thermal Printers produce labels that can be damaged or destroyed by heat and direct sunlight. A top coating can help reduce the danger of this damage,
but it’s still not a perfect solution.
Direct Thermal Printers are best used as a less expensive option for printing labels that do not need to last for a long time. Because they are simple machines and the only thing you need to replace is the print media, they have the lowest cost per label. Most shipping labels and receipts you see are made using a Direct Thermal Printer.
Thermal Transfer Printers use a print ribbon which is melted onto the label with a printhead. The advantage of this method is that it allows the use of many different types of media. In addition to increased durability, the labels last much longer. You can also change the color of the print.
The major downside is that Thermal Transfer Printers are more expensive to use. In addition to buying labels, you need to buy print ribbon as well, which raises the cost per label somewhat. On the other hand, your labels will last longer, withstand heat and weather, and limit the amount of re-printing you will have to
do. Thermal Transfer is ideal for product labeling, any outdoor use, and any situation in which you expect the labels to be exposed to a lot of heat or sunlight.