All You Need to Know About Thermal Ribbons

Date Posted:1 September 2021 

All You Need to Know About Thermal Ribbons main image All You Need to Know About Thermal Ribbons image

What exactly is a thermal ribbon and when is it used? When you use the thermal transfer method to print labels, the printing equipment rapidly melts a coating (known as substrate) from a thermal ribbon onto whatever label paper or stock you’re printing onto. The result is a hardy, rugged imprint which can withstand far more extreme conditions than the direct thermal printing method. So what are the options when it comes to choosing thermal ribbons for thermal transfer printing?


What types of thermal ribbons can you choose?

There are three categories of thermal printing ribbons:

  • Wax ribbon is the most economical option, and ideal for printing on coated and uncoated paper label stock for shipping and warehouse purposes. Wax ribbon has a relatively low melt point and as such, it can be used to print efficiently at a lower printer heat setting. It offers good scuff and abrasion resistance and is more durable than direct thermal printing, but is the least durable of all the ribbon options.
  • Wax-resin ribbon is a great choice if you’re looking for a high quality print on coated or uncoated label stock, particularly for labels that might be stored or moved around in outdoor conditions. If you’re looking for a finer and crisper print than with wax ribbon, you can find it with a wax resin thermal transfer ribbon. Wax-resin prints can withstand a fair amount of UV light and moisture, but prolonged contact with either will probably necessitate the third option of full resin.
  • Full resin ribbon is the most durable of all, and can withstand prolonged exposure to sunlight, water, friction and most chemicals. A full resin substrate will actually bond with synthetic label surfaces for a permanent print. A full resin thermal transfer ribbon is an ideal choice if labelled items might be bumping against one another, if they have a long journey to make or for labelling important information such as medicines and hazardous chemicals.


What about choosing ribbon width and length?

Simply buying the widest ribbon you can find can lead to significant waste. To choose the right ribbon width, consider the size of label you’ll most commonly be using and buy ribbon that’s wider than this – don’t forget to factor in the backing allowance too.


You can easily calculate how many labels you’ll be able to print from a particular ribbon length. Add your label height to the distance between labels, and then divide the ribbon length by this number. Consider buying the longest length that will fit into your label printer to save time and money – because the longer your thermal label roll and ribbon, the fewer changeovers will be required.


If you’re looking for the right thermal ribbons in Australia, you’ll find it with Thermal Labels. Explore our range of quality label printing ribbons for a variety of widths and lengths, and if you don’t see what you need here simply get in touch with our team.

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