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Thermal Transfer Ribbons

Argon Technology has a large selection of thermal transfer ribbons for leading desktop and industrial thermal transfer printers from brands like Zebra, SATO, Toshiba / TEC, Honeywell, Intermec, Printronix, GoDEX, and more.

Thermal Transfer Ribbon Basics

Thermal transfer ribbons come in roll form, featuring an ink-coated ribbon wound onto a core. Depending on the printer’s requirements, the ink side is either rolled OUT or IN. When printing with a thermal ribbon, the ink side always faces the substrate so that when the heated printhead comes in contact with the ribbon, the ink is then transferred to the label. Thermal transfer ribbons most often feature black ink, though colored ribbons are available.

Because there are many different label materials (paper and synthetics) and applications (shipping labels, inventory tags, barcodes, chemical labels, etc.) for thermal transfer printing, thermal transfer ribbons feature a broad range of ink formulations which fall under the following three categories:

-   Wax ribbons — Wax ribbons are typically used with either matte or high gloss paper labels and tags. Because the ink is wax-based, the labels should be kept dry and away from heat, chemicals, and heavy handling which can melt, scratch, or otherwise adversely affect the wax. For general purpose labeling where heat and moisture are not present, wax ribbons on paper labels are an excellent choice.

-   Resin ribbons — Resin ribbons are used with polypropylene, vinyl, polyester, and other synthetic labels. The resin ink dissolves slighting into the label’s surface, forming a tight bond that is extremely durable. Resin-printed labels can withstand sunlight, water immersion, and, depending on the formulation, contact with chemicals and oils. For the most demanding labeling applications like chemical labels, waterproof labels, and horticulture labels, you’ll need resin ribbons and synthetic labels.

-   Wax/Resin ribbons — Wax/Resin ribbons fall somewhere in the middle, offering better durability than wax ribbons but less than resin ribbons. Wax/Resin ribbons are designed to be used with coated paper labels and some synthetic labels like polypropylene and color floodcoated labels. Wax/Resin ribbons print crisper images than wax alone when used on glossy labels but can handle only incidental contact with water and moisture. If you want to print crisp barcode labels and durable tags, wax/resin ribbons and coated semi-gloss or high gloss paper labels are a great choice.

What Thermal Transfer Ribbon Will Work With My Printer?

In order to find the correct ribbon for a printer, we need to understand the following information:

- What type of label are you printing? For example, is it a paper-based or synthetic label? As noted above, paper-based labels typically use general purpose wax ribbons while synthetic labels typically require wax-resin or resin ribbons depending on the material and the type of durability required.

-   Should the ink face IN or OUT? We need to determine the printer’s ribbon requirements regarding whether the ink should face OUT or IN on the ribbon. This varies by manufacturer and printer model.

-   What size core fits the printer? We need to determine whether the printer uses 1/2” or 1" cores. In general, most desktop printers use 1/2" cores while most industrial printers use 1" cores.

-   What is the longest length ribbon that will work in your printer? The max length helps us find you the best match. We have multiple lengths available for any given ribbon. As long as the ribbon length is less than the maximum length, it will fit the printer. However, if it is longer than the maximum length, the roll’s outside diameter will be too large to fit the printer.

-   How wide is the label? The ribbon needs to be slightly wider than the label. Select the next larger size available than the largest label you plan on printing.

We have a large selection of thermal transfer ribbons compatible with a wide range of thermal label printers including: Seiko, Zebra, Toshiba, GoDex, Avery, Intermec, Printronix, Datamax, and more.