How to choose a thermal transfer ribbon?

Transfer tape, also known as ribbon, is one of the basic consumables. It has been designed for thermal transfer printers. Properly selected, both for the type of labels and the printing machine, it will become an excellent dye carrier. However, many users have a problem selecting a thermal transfer ribbon, depending on the type of printer they have. There are several types of tapes, each serving different labels and devices. How to choose the right one?

Coloring tapes and their types

This is one of the parameters that we need to get acquainted with to know what kind of tape will work best when achieving our goals. Each type of tape will have a different use, and also different properties.

We print different types of labels on them. Basically, thermal transfer ribbons are divided into:

✔️ wax thermal transfer ribbon – this type will be used for paper labels with a matte finish. For other types of labels, the print will smudge and disappear. With paper labels, the dye will be more durable and resistant. It is worth adding that this type of tape is one of the cheapest on the market.

✔️ resin thermal transfer ribbon – this type of tape will work with all types of labels. No matter if they are plastic or paper. Thus, it is possible to finish both matte, glossy and semi-glossy. This will not affect the quality of the print, which will be permanent. It will also be resistant to weather conditions. This is the most expensive type of tape offered by the market. For paper labels, we can choose wax tape, which is much cheaper.

✔️ Resin-wax dyeing tape – we can use it for foil and semi-gloss labels. It is not the cheapest on the market, so like in the previous case, let us use a cheaper solution for paper labels.

✔️ Textile thermal transfer ribbon – used e.g. in label printing. 

✔️ Colored thermal transfer ribbons – they stand out because they offer colors other than black. Thanks to them, monochrome printing is possible.



The right size

Thermal transfer ribbons have different sizes that should be matched to the labels we intend to print. Remember, regardless of the chosen type of tape so that its width slightly exceeds the width of the label. Then, we will avoid problems caused by anaesthetic wrinkling, and we will make sure that the print is made correctly, without distortion. Another tape parameter is its length. We need to adapt it to the printer specifications.

The device manufacturer usually places information about the maximum length of the tape in the package. The length of the tape depends on it, and is as follows:

✔️ for office printers, typically, thermal transfer ribbon is 74 m long. 
✔️ for desktop printers, this parameter is 110 m.
✔️ for industrial printers it is 300 m and 450 m.



Remember to read the printer specifications first. In the manufacturer’s guidelines, in addition to the maximum tape length in the package, we also read:

✔️ printing width – it defines the width of the core. A thermal transfer ribbon is wound on it. The most popular are currently 4-inch printers with an S-core size.
✔️ Core diameter – it depends on the printer model. They come in 0.5 inch and 1 inch sizes.


However, it should be taken into account that the width of the core does not always specify the width of the thermal transfer ribbon. It all depends on the type of labels. If the core is spaced, for example, at 3 inches, but we need to print smaller labels, we can confidently use a tape with a smaller width than the roll on which it is wound. This will not affect the quality of the print, nor its durability. Of course, if we adjust the type of thermal transfer ribbon first. The selection of this product is not easy, you need the right knowledge and knowledge of the offer available on the market.



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