Which Type of Barcode Printer Ribbon Is For You

Thermal barcode printers use a fixed width print head that presses onto the label via a rubber roller called a platen. Between the print head and the label is a think thermal transfer ribbon, which is basically a polyester film that has been coated with a wax, wax-resin or pure resin “ink.”

The different types of resin are made to print on different labels for different applications, such as harsh environments. Wax ribbons are primarily for printing onto paper labels, but it is important to note that they must be kept in a dry environment, not subjected to chemicals or oil that would dissolve the wax image.

Wax-resin ribbons produce a finer image when paired with smooth paper or coated paper labels. Wax-resin is much more durable than wax, but should still avoid contact with water.

Pure resin ribbons are formulated to print onto plastic labels such as polyester and vinyl. Resin is designed to slightly dissolve into plastic surfaces, thus allowing it to become durable.

This “ink” coating can be manufactured to face in, or out on the roll. While most brands of barcode label printer work with only coated side in or coated side out, some printers support both. Because of this, it’s very important to check what kind of roll your barcode printer supports.

As the label and ribbon move under the printhead, pixels are heated and cooled in order to melt the “ink” off of the polyester film and onto the label.

It’s important to pay attention to which “ink” works well with which applications and labels, as some combinations may produce no image at all.