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Which Thermal Transfer Ribbon is right for you?

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Thermal transfer printing delivers permanent crisp print quality, ideal for long life product labelling and when labels are exposed to direct sunlight, heat or outdoor conditions. insignia supplies an extensive range of Thermal Transfer ribbons in a range of ribbon grades and types designed to maximise your print performance and the longevity from your print head.

To simplify your purchasing process and find the perfect ribbon for your application our thermal printing experts have answered the top five most frequently asked questions ribbon questions.


1. What is a Thermal Transfer Technology?

Thermal Transfer technology uses a heat-sensitive carbon ribbon, which is melted on to the label when it comes into contact with the thermal printhead and 'transfers' ink onto the label material, forming the image on the surface. Thermal Transfer create a permanent, crisp print which is more durable when compared to thermal direct, making it ideal for long-life product labelling, and for products stored outdoors or in direct sunlight.

Thermal Transfer labels are often tougher in nature, making them less likely to scratch or fade. If the label is intended to last a longer length of time, exposed to higher temperatures, direct sunlight or rougher conditions like rubbing or scuffing during transit then Thermal Transfer technology is what you need.


2. What are the different layers of a Thermal Transfer Ribbon?

Four layers make up a thermal transfer ribbon these include the back protection, PET base film, release layer and ink layer. Each layer of the thermal ribbon have their own individual properties that serve a unique purpose in helping to ensure the highest quality label is produced.


3. What are the different types of Thermal Transfer Ribbon?

Selecting the right type of thermal transfer ribbon for your label printer will ensure that your thermal transfer labels live up to the required quality and durability of the job at hand.

insignia stocks three types of carbon ribbons which come in a range of different formulations including Wax, Resin or a combination to make your label more economical, durable or provide a finer image on print.

All insignia ribbons meet strict quality specifications for printer manufacturers and have a unique coating on the back of the ribbon to protect your printhead. Each of these ribbon types share their own unique benefits suited to different applications.

Wax Thermal Ribbons

Wax thermal ribbons are the most economical variety of the thermal ribbon range and are suitable for general-purpose printing on paper stocks. Although this range is inexpensive, they offer superior abrasion, resistance and excellent print quality on normal and rotated barcodes on coated and uncoated paper.

The high ratio of wax in the formulation means these ribbons have a lower melt point, so a lower heat setting can be used on the printer and high print speeds are achievable.

Wax Ribbon are recommended for application and uses including coated and uncoated labels and tags, general-purpose labelling, shipping labels, carton labelling, retail tags and labels, print and apply applications.

Wax-Resin Thermal Ribbons

Wax-Resin thermal ribbons are suitable for labels requiring a long lifespan, and provide a finer image on very smooth or coated and gloss paper labels and some synesthetic stocks. The printed image produced from a wax-resin ribbon is more durable than wax, ensuring superior smear and scratch resistance and excellent resistance to scuffing or rubbing which can be a common problem for freight.

The recommended applications and uses for Wax-Resin ribbons include; high speed print applications, shelf and bin labelling, Drum labelling, part marking labelling and high gloss labels.

Resin Thermal Ribbons

Full resin ribbons provide excellent performance producing labels with a sharp and clear print. Resin ribbons thrive in harsh environments such as corrosive, high temperatures UV applications, moisture, abrasion and demanding applications.

Recommended applications and uses for Resin ribbons include; super high gloss labels and synthetic labels, extreme applications such as hazardous drum labelling, labels requiring a long life and all types of outdoor labelling that require durability.


4. What is CSO and CSI?

Quite simply, thermal ribbon rolls are available with the carbon-side facing in or carbon facing out. This terminology refers to the side of the ribbon that the ink sits on. You can identify which side is coated, as you will notice one side of the ribbon is shiny and one side has a more matte finish, the duller side is the side the ink sits on.

This is the side that should face the labels when you place the thermal transfer ribbon on the ribbon spindle. Depending on the specific thermal transfer printer that you have, you will use either one or the other. The only difference between carbon side in and carbon side out is the direction that the thermal ribbon is wound. Different printer makes and models will specify which style of ribbon they require. For more information on which ribbon is suitable for your printer make and model, visit our website's ribbon page.


5. How do I ensure longevity of my Thermal Ribbon stock?

Storing your ribbon stock in the ideal environmental conditions will ensure the longevity of your Thermal ribbons. When stored indoors at room temperature away from high humidity and direct sunlight your thermal ribbons can last around 24 months.

insignia's quality Thermal Transfer Ribbons are designed to bring out the best in your printer and prolong the life of your printhead. Our experts can help you match an appropriate ribbon to your label material or application, as well as providing advice on the correct label printer temperature and print-speed settings.

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