Thermal Transfer Printing - What is thermal transfer printing?
A method of printing; this process creates an image by using a thermal print head to melt specific areas of a ribbon so that these areas are transferred to the substrate being printed. The image carrier or imaging device in thermal transfer printers is the thermal print head, which contains heating elements (usually pins) arranged in a matrix (meaning that thermal transfer printing is a form of dot matrix printing). The pins are heated selectively to form a pattern that represents the image being printed, which means that thermal transfer printing is also a form of digital printing; the image or document being printed must be in a bitmap format (the image is represented by a grid of coloured dots, or pixels), which can be recreated by the matrix of pins in the print head.
The ribbon is made up of two layers; a wax and/or resin-based ink and a backing film (which carries the ink through the printing process). The ribbon and the substrate pass beneath the thermal print head together, where the areas of ink that pass beneath the heated elements in the print head melt and separate from the backing film, which causes them to transfer onto the substrate and form the final printed image.
Thermal transfer printing offers a variety of advantages over the similar method of direct thermal printing; thermal transfer printers can print monochromatic or colour images (ribbons are available in a number of colours), can print a number of different materials (not just specialised thermal paper), are capable of high-speed printing, and produce print of a higher quality and durability (including some resistance to extreme temperatures, sterilisation, chemicals, and UV light).
Thermal transfer printing involves printing substrates that are produced on rolls, and common uses include printing asset labels, barcode labels, inventory labels, product labels, and price labels.Go Back to Glossary