Thermal transfer


We guarantee faultless synergy during the thermal transfer printing process

Thermal transfer printing has emerged in the past few decades as the dominant digital printing method for identification labels and, particularly, for high-quality barcodes. While less environmentally friendly than other methods – thermal transfer printing employs crude oil-based carriers – and more expensive than its then competitors, its capacity for endurance made it a widely adopted technology from the get go.

It took off in the early ‘80s as an alternative to the then decade-old direct thermal printing, which prints simply by applying heat to thermochromic paper. The latter suffered from substantial drawbacks in terms of long term durability and thermal transfer printing had the added bonus of reduced wear given its back-coating that reduces friction.

Furthermore, thermal transfer printers employ thermal ribbons which prevent the print head from coming into contact with the material of the label, preventing the former from being damaged by any dust or other contaminants which may be present on the latter. This more than doubles the lifespan of print heads and, combined with the fact that the thermal paper necessitated by direct thermal transfer – if it is to attempt to close the gap in quality – is more highly priced, it makes thermal transfer printing the significantly less costly option.

The ribbons themselves have proved a versatile tool, again allowing for economy by being highly customizable. Thermal transfer wax ribbons are a core product dedicated mainly to paper labels, be these coated or uncoated. While the prints thus produced fare poorly under stress from chemical agents, friction or in conditions of humidity, correct handling of these items makes them a good alternative for producing long-lasting labels. Also capable of printing on cardboard and polypropylene (PP), wax ribbons provide excellent quality labels within the above-mentioned parameters and a plethora of customizations.

In the case of Polyethylene (PE) and Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) materials, wax-resin ribbons have a good track record for imprinting prescription pharmaceuticals and barcodes. While not as inexpensive as their wax counterpart, these ribbons produce prints that are able to withstand a very wide range of conditions in terms of weather, moisture and improper handling.

For the most demanding environments, resin-only ribbons have produced prints that have proven themselves against the above-mentioned conditions and have shown further chemical resilience. Deployed almost exclusively on synthetic stocks, this type of thermal transfer printing ribbon melts at much higher temperatures, producing label prints that hold on great against UV light and solvents, as well as having good results against abrasion.

For a number of years 2Dsolutions has partnered with the most established ribbon producers worldwide to ensure the best synergy between printers, materials and the ribbons themselves. A perfect match is key to pushing cutting edge standards and the very specific know-how our company has gained over time is our most valuable asset to our clients. Thus, aside from the production of highly durable blank label substrates, we have been able to further provide cost-optimized pre-printed labels of world-class quality.

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