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Printer Technologies

Thermal Transfer

Zebra thermal transfer printerThis printing process uses a heat transfer from an ink coated ribbon to a clay coated paper. The printhead dots heat to form an image on the paper. Different types and grades of both facestock and ribbon are available for diversity in applications including scratch, smudge and chemical resistance. The label material is less expensive than direct thermal. This material can be printed at high speed with low temperature.

Direct Thermal

TSC direct thermal printerSimilar to thermal transfer, except uses direct heat without a ribbon to the paper. This paper is coated with a heat reactive chemical containing dye, which turns the label black. There are different grades of direct thermal: visible light, near infrared and infrared. Infrared uses a special scanner, contains more carbon to produce a darker image, and is more costly. This material must run at a higher temperature and has a shorter shelf life, being susceptible to light and heat.

Dot Matrix

Epson dot matrix printerThis method is the most common of the impact printing capabilities involving the firing of pins or hammers against a ribbon and onto the paper. The impact produces a small image on the paper. Barcodes are produced by printing small dots in a vertical column, creating a medium to low density barcode. The cost of ribbons and continuous label stock is very low cost. These labels are usually pinfed and fanfolded.


Canon laser printerThis type of printing is much like a photocopier. A laser beam on a rotating cylinder forms an image which attracts toner. The toner is then fused to the paper via heat and pressure. The printer, toner, and labels for this method are very costly. High quality, high density barcodes are printed either on sheets or continuous label stock.  These printers are typically used when print volumes are very low, and the cost of printing is not an issue.


Epson inkjet printerThis type of printing uses tiny drops of ink that are sprayed onto a label in specific patterns in order to form text and graphic images. Often these printers are capable of printing in CYMK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) colors in order to produce print that closely mimics four color process printing. The ink affixes itself to the paper by being absorbed into the sheet and dried by air. Some printers use a UV (ultraviolet) process whereby the ink is cured, or hardened, by exposure to a UV light source after printing. While the ink cost is high, the quality of the print is also very high, and there is no heat to negatively affect the label stock running through it.

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