We're open, but longer lead times may be experienced

Select Page

Printers are the core components of any business workplace.

Be it a retail shop or a shopping mall; printers are extensively required to print labels and barcodes to identify products, tag assets, and more.

While printing is an integral part of business processes, the question is what type of printer you should use. If you use the right printer, it will improve productivity and save a tremendous amount of time and money.

Direct thermal printing has been around for years and traditionally used across several areas, including retail shops, meat, dairy, and so on.

While the technology is evolving, newer systems have come into the market that are more efficient, reliable, and cost-effective. The development of thermal paper technology has been increased with time and it offers a wide range of products. These products are now suitable for use in many applications across every market. For this reason, use of direct thermal printing has been immensely increased because it offers cost-effective and efficient way of printing.

Thermal transfer printing has also gained much popularity in earlier days, and since then businesses are using the same technology.

Both printing solutions (thermal transfer and direct thermal printing) have advantages and disadvantages, but you need to choose the one which is suitable for your business and simultaneously increases your business productivity.

Understand the difference between Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Printing.

Thermal Transfer Printing

With print head elements (dots) and a thin ribbon, thermal transfer printing works great. One side of the print head of the printer has wax and resin. Printers print through the print head dots which heats the backside of the ribbon that melts it and transfers the wax or resin or both on to the label material to create a printed image.

Direct Thermal Printing

Print heads are also being used to print images in direct thermal printing. However, it does not use thin ribbons. Rather than using heat to print on the material, direct thermal printing uses heat-sensitive label material to print on.

While printing, the print head comes in direct contact with the sensitive paper. Then, that heat from the print head changes the color in the material to create images.

Whether its thermal transfer or direct thermal printing, both technologies serve their best purpose if they are being used in the right way. In this post, you can have a look at each aspect of both the printing solutions. With this detailing, you may choose the best technology for your business processes.

Thermal print head technology

The print head directly prints on the material in direct thermal printing because the print head is in direct contact with the label material. Whereas, the thermal ribbon acts as a buffer between the print head dots and the printing material to get the print in thermal transfer printing. However, thermal ribbons are furnished with an additional back coating. This coating reduces the static and friction and increases the life of thermal ribbons.

In direct thermal printing, the print head suffers increased friction due to the lack of ribbon if compared to thermal transfer printing. Also, when the print head is in direct contact with the printing material, it is regularly exposed to friction.

While printing continues in direct thermal printing, dust may flow around on the label and comes in direct contact with the print head. When this dust is pulled across the print head, there will be a good chance that dots get burnt and physically damaged. It will simply result in poor print quality and decrease the life of print head too.

Contrary to direct thermal printing, the ribbon in thermal transfer printing prevents the dust from coming in direct contact with the print head and reduces the chance of physical damage.

Lastly, the life of the print head in direct thermal printing is considerably reduced as compared to thermal transfer printing. Therefore, small scale businesses are likely to use direct thermal printing as they don’t need to print labels in bulk. Also, direct thermal printing is cost-effective for small businesses.

Printer configuration

A thermal transfer printer prints either thermal transfer or direct thermal labels. However, if you need to print using only direct thermal technology, there are specific printers available that help you print only direct thermal labels.

Direct thermal printers do not comprise additional hardware, like ribbon and ribbon controller. Therefore, with lesser hardware components the printer becomes less complicated, and there will be fewer chances of breakage. These printers save a lot of time that you require while changing the ribbon as well as the cost that is used to purchase the ribbon.

Buying a direct thermal label printer makes sense. However, if your business needs to print high-quality labels that last long and take less time to print, you will need to buy a thermal transfer printer.

In the end, a thermal transfer printer costs more in contrast to a direct thermal printer, because the printer has additional components.

Moreover, a direct thermal printer is perfect for a small business that doesn’t require extensive printing and number of labels.

Label life

The life of labels has the power to decide the lifetime of product recognition. It is a small but most important consideration to choose the best technology for your business.

Both direct thermal and thermal transfer offer different lifetime for a label. For a business to grow, you must know the required life for labels before buying a printer.

If your printer may go through extreme conditions like extreme heat, cold, adverse weather conditions, you should consider buying a thermal transfer printer.

For instance, if you own a warehouse, your inventory is most likely to be seated in extremely hazardous conditions. Also, if you ship pharmaceutical products or any hazardous material, your label information should be extremely crucial. Therefore, using thermal transfer printers for printing labels makes them clearer and more readable.

On the other hand, if your printer will only be used for regular label printing, you can buy a direct thermal printer.

Direct Thermal Printing and Thermal Transfer Printing – Advantages 

– Direct thermal printers involve low printing cost where you don’t need to purchase ink, toner, or thermal ribbon and you only need to buy labels. Whereas thermal transfer printers are the best for printing higher volume labels that last for long. Also, the label requires the ink that is absorbed by the print material and lasts longer.

– Thermal transfer printers are suitable for printing high volume labels and can also print in colors. On the other hand, direct thermal printers are the best option for small businesses to print regular labels.

– Direct thermal printers comprise of print heads only. That’s why there is low maintenance cost. Contrary to direct thermal printers, thermal transfer printers are used to print logos and branding on your labels and that too all in color. These printers often have high maintenance costs.

– Labels printed with thermal transfer printers can withstand extreme weather conditions and still be readable and in good condition. Whereas, direct thermal printers are easy-to-use and cost-effective.

Direct Thermal Printing and Thermal Transfer Printing – Disadvantages 

– Direct thermal printers are not able to print in color and can only print in black. Thermal transfer printers are expensive as compared to direct thermal.

– Thermal transfer printers use consumable parts like ribbon that needs to be regularly changed, whereas labels that print with direct thermal printers are not useful for long life as the ink fades away.

– Direct thermal labels cannot withstand extreme environmental conditions. Thermal transfer labels contain a high maintenance cost.

The ending notes

While both printing technologies are best in their own ways, choosing the best all depends upon what business you own and what are your label printing requirements.

Thermal label printers, whether direct thermal or thermal transfer, both can complete all your label printing requirements.

If you own a small business and do not require long-life labels, you can buy a direct thermal printer. Whereas if your business runs on a large-scale and your products need labels that can withstand harsh environmental conditions, you should go for a thermal transfer printer.

Epson label printers are the best choice amongst all the printers.

To know more about thermal label printers, you can visit Wish A POS and get best deals and discounts on your purchase.


Liberty Rd, Huntingwood,
NSW 2148, Australia


Mortimer Rd, Acacia Ridge QLD,
Brisbane 4110, Australia



Middleborough Rd, Box Hill VIC,
Melbourne 3128, Australia


Quantum Corporate Park , Victoria Rd Rydalmere,
NSW 2116, Australia


Wonderland Drive, Eastern Creek,
NSW 2766, Australia


Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley,
QLD 4006, Australia


Dunning Ave, Rosebery,
NSW 2018, Australia


Northlink Tufnell Rd Banyo,
QLD 4014, Australia


Proprietary St, Tingalpa,
QLD 4173, Australia


Lagana Pl, Wetherill Park,
NSW 2164, Australia


Riversdale Rd, Surrey Hills,
VIC 3127, Australia

Kings Park

Garling Road, Kings Park,
NSW 2148, Australia