Thermal Transfer Ribbon

 Thermal Transfer Ribbon

You’re making use of (or are planning to make use of) an barcode label printer…and now you’re pondering which thermal transfer ribbon to select for your project. You’re in the right spot! This article outlines the fundamental characteristics and the best uses for wax, wax-resin and resin ribbons.

An introduction to the basics to print the information on labels thermal barcode printers press the printhead onto a specific kind of material. Direct Thermal (DT) media contains chemical compounds that are heat-sensitive and respond directly to the heat generated by the printer and create an image.

The labels are extremely sensitive to heat, abrasion and UV light and are not commonly employed other than for receipts and shipping labels when printing with a mobile printer and in a handful of other applications. To ensure the durability of the printed image, between the printhead and the label, we include the Thermal Transfer Ribbon (TTR) which is a transparent PET film that has been coated with a particular combination of resin and wax inks.

When the ribbon and label pass under the printhead digital elements that are on the head are quickly heated and then cooled to transfer the ink off the paper and onto the labels.

 Thermal Transfer Ribbon
 Thermal Transfer Ribbon

(Side note Note: The ink coating may be made to face in or out of the roll. Although most barcode printers are compatible with both approaches, however, some printers can only work with either one of the two. This is why it’s vital to determine which winds your printer can support.)

The ribbon formula you’ll be using will be based on the specific application. The combinations are created and tested to print on various types of media and are designed for specific uses. It is crucial to select the correct one since it will ensure the quality and long-lasting durability you’re seeking. There are three basic options for the most common Thermo transfer printers: wax, resin, and wax-resin. This article will review of the characteristics of each.


Wax ribbons, often called “resin improved wax” ribbons are the most popular (and most affordable) that are suitable for non-coated and matte-coated labels.

Durability Wax ribbons are not as durable as other kinds but are also less expensive. They offer an image that resists fading more effectively that Direct Thermal labels, but the image will continue to be vulnerable to smudging and scratching. They also have a limited chemical resistance when compared to wax or resin.

The process is as follows: Every wax ribbon has resin within its composition. The mixture of resin inks and wax is then melted and coated on the PET film. Backcoating is added to the reverse of the film, and the rolls are cut to different lengths and widths to suit different printer models.

The printer’s printhead components receive a digital signal that causes them to quickly warm-up and cool down. If they are hot, they transfer ink from to the ribbon and onto the labels (assuming that you’ve got the right label and ribbon combination, the ink will adhere to the labels).

Applications: Wax ribbons can be utilized for light and short-term durable applications like packaging labels for shipping, store tagging signage, storage and others. They are the most sought-after and account for more than 70 percent of thermal transfer ribbon (TTR) sales.


The wax-resin ribbons typically are similar to half-wax and half resin. They cost more than wax ribbons, however, they provide more durability and flexibility for substrates. They print on nearly every kind of label as well as packaging film.

Durability: Wax-resin is much more robust than wax when it is concerned with scratch and smear resistance. It is resistant to moderate to harsh chemicals, and also more extreme temperatures.

The process is essentially the same The procedure is basically identical to the wax ribbon method however, the main difference is that instead of mainly wax, this method makes use of an even distribution of resin and wax.

Applications: Wax-resin ribbons can be utilized in applications that require an additional abrasion, chemical, or environmental resistance. The most common applications include laboratory labeling outdoor product/UL labeling and cold chain/freezer applications in which the added durability is essential in order to avoid the barcode to degrade.


A lot of resin ribbons have some wax present in the ribbons, but they are mostly ink-based resins. They are the most durable and costly type of TTR designed to meet the highest demands that are compatible with high-gloss coated labels for paper and synthetic film labels such as Polypropylene, Polyethylene, Polyester, and even special receptors such as Polyimide Acrylate, Polyimide, and textiles.

Durability. They are the most durable ribbons. Extreme cold or heat, as well as extreme solvents and chemicals rough abrasions, and outdoor conditions, are not a match for a properly spec’d resin ribbon that is labeled appropriately in the stock.

The process’s working. When the amount of resin within the ribbon grows the process changes because these inks require more energy to melt on the surface. The speed and darkness of the printhead adjustments must be made to Thermal Transfer Ribbon the ink to create an image that is durable.

Uses. The high endurance of the resin ribbons makes them an essential component for hazardous-environment or mission-critical tasks. The typical uses include medical device labels electrical component/PCB labels, garment care tags, plant stakes and chemical drum labeling, and numerous others.

 Thermal Transfer Ribbon
 Thermal Transfer Ribbon

There are also labels that require more than the capabilities of on-demand printing services to create. For these types of applications, Laserplus has strategic partnerships with major converting partners across the country which can get your labels printed – Thermal Transfer Ribbon to nearly every specification.

Labels are typically preprinted and then add clear laminates for an additional level of abrasion, UV, and chemical resistance. We are also able to assist with barcodes made of anodized aluminum or laser-etched into steel for the ultimate durability, or even ceramic barcodes to provide the most effective heat resistance -Thermal Transfer Ribbon

The thermal transfer ribbons are one aspect of a highly efficient and effective Laserplus system however, they are crucial due to the expense for your business if you select the incorrect one.

Laserplus team is here to assist you in determining the most effective solutions – whether large or small – to meet your requirements, and that includes finding the best printer, too. Contact us to talk with an expert regarding the printing and labeling needs of your business by scheduling a no-cost assessment today!