So you’re going to start using barcodes in your business, and you’re trying to decide whether or not your current inkjet or laser printer will do the job. It may be tempting to try to make the machine you have work as a barcode label printer. However, before making any decisions, it’s important to consider the benefits of using a dedicated thermal system.
There are two types of thermal barcode label printers: direct thermal and thermal transfer.
Direct thermal printing works by heating a specially-coated paper, causing a chemical reaction that forms the desired image.
Direct thermal barcode labels are slightly less expensive to produce than their thermal transfer counterparts, but may not possess the same durability and resistance to heat and other environmental factors.
Thermal transfer printing consists of a specialized inked film ribbon, which when heated transfers the desired image onto the print medium.
Thermal transfer labels are extremely durable and long-lasting, and are reliable in the most challenging environments. They can stand up against the most extreme temperatures, ultraviolet radiation, and chemical and solvent exposure. In addition, they are also capable of producing the most highly detailed images.
When it comes to printing barcodes, thermal barcode label printers prove vastly superior to traditional inkjet-based systems. Because inkjet (as well as laser) printers are required to perform a variety of functions, they must necessarily sacrifice certain qualities for the sake of utility. It may seem like a financially sound idea to try and rely on an existing inkjet-based printer to provide barcode labels for your business. However, by cutting corners in this fashion, you very well could end up losing money in the long run through high maintenance costs, slower production, and inferior, sometimes illegible barcode labels.
Thermal printers are highly reliable and optimally designed for label-printing, which means they are ideal for printing one or thousands of labels at a time. Thermal images have high density with sharp edge definition and the right combination of ribbon and media results in a very durable, scratch- and solvent-resistant image without over-laminating. Adhesive bleed is not an issue for thermal printers, as their operating temperatures are much lower than laser fuser stations. Consequently, thermal printers are the printer of choice for barcode label printing.