Tips to Ensure You Buy the Correct Printer Ribbon

           High-tech fabrications in printer ribbon have led to a new generation of products that last longer, resist smudging, and reduce melting temperatures. In plain English, that means your printing will be easily scannable, long lasting, and crisp. You can leverage technology to your benefit without weighing too heavily on your budget if you understand the features of each ribbon.

            Thermal Printing

            Direct thermal printers and thermal transfer printers are not the same thing. Only the latter requires a printer ribbon.

            Sizing Your Ribbon

            Printer widths vary enormously. The width of your ribbon needs to be the same as or less than the width of your printer. The length is equally important and is measured in inches.<

            Ribbon Materials

            While there are recommended materials for different types of printers, you do get the freedom to be somewhat flexible.

·       Wax ribbon is budget-friendly and long lasting. It’s ideal for packaging labels and retail tags. It can only be used with paper labels because it causes smudging on synthetics, rendering bar codes and text illegible.

·       Wax/resin hybrids combine the best features of wax and resin, offering an economical way to gain better quality than wax alone. The result is smudge and scratch-resistant enough for outdoor locations and warehouse usage. They’re ideal for retail, warehouse, and shipping environments and can be used on synthetic labels as well as paper.

·       Wax can be enhanced by resin to achieve a balance between wax and wax/resin hybrids.  

·       Resin is the most durable, expensive option, and is thus used in environments that expose labels to chemicals, abrasion, and water. Resin is durable enough to use on synthetic labels and for medical device tracing. Its high definition quality also makes it ideal for bar codes, although it’s typically limited to computer and micro label printing.

            Selecting Your Media

            Your ribbon needs to be chosen according to the medium you’re printing on as well as the label’s function. Adhesive labels are remarkably forgiving, so it’s pointless to choose expensive resin ribbon for them. Cardboard tags are just as easy to print on, so wax will suffice. However, when printing barcodes on smaller media that are exposed to the elements, a wax/resin hybrid will serve you better. Wristbands and clothing labels must withstand plenty of wear, so the expense of resin might be a necessity, particularly in hospital environments where errors can cost lives.<

            Label Materials

            Your goal when choosing your printer ribbon is to obtain a clear, lasting print, and your label materials are highly influential on longevity.

·       Paper and wax is only a useful combination if your label won’t be exposed to humidity and wear.

·       Polypropylene is a rugged synthetic that resists tearing. It usually suits a wax/resin hybrid.

·       Polyester is the hardiest labelling material available, so a resin/polyester combination is ideal for environments that expose tags to the elements. It’s used for vehicle tagging and the labelling of chemical containers. It can also be used in laboratories and for certain medical applications.


          Some labels only need to last as long as they stay on the shelf, whereas others are a part of a product’s functionality and need to have extreme longevity. The latter are best served by full resin ribbons and polyester combinations. Wax/resin hybrids are ideal for labels that are used indoors but will be exposed to light handling, sunlight, and temperature changes.

           Thermal transfer printers can leverage an enormous range of ink formulas and other features, so although general guidelines will work for most businesses, some expert advice and a little trial and error will get you past the finishing line of your project. 

           Contact us to buy the printer ribbon you need today! 

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