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Which Thermal Ribbon Do I Need?

Which thermal ribbon is right for my application?

Ok, this is a question we get asked a lot. And for good reason! When it comes to choosing the right thermal ribbon to match your printer AND your application, the differing brands, grades, sizes etc can be altogether baffling…

So here at Southern ID we’ve put together a little guide to help you on your way…

Step 1: Ensure you have a thermal transfer printer

This may seem really obvious, but if you’re new to label printing, thermal ribbons only work with thermal transfer printers. Direct thermal printers don’t have the internal capacity to store a ribbon.

Step 2: Determine the right ribbon size. 

  • Width: Thermal transfer ribbons come in different print widths – typically 4 inch and 6 inch. A 6 inch width ribbon will not fit into a printer with a 4 inch print width, so it’s important you choose the width of ribbon that is equal to or less than your printer’s print width.
  • Length: The length of a ribbon will give you an indication of the numbers of inches that 1 single roll will print. For example: a ribbon with a length of 244 inches will have enough ribbon to print 244, 1 inch long labels. Choose the length based on the inches needed for your desired print job.

Step 3: Choose the ribbon material:

  • Wax Ribbon: This is the most cost-effective choice of thermal ribbon and is ideal for cardboard box labelling and warehouse, retail and shipping applications. Although it’s the least resilient grade of ribbon, it will still last significantly longer than print produced by a direct thermal printer. It’s best utilised with a paper substrate material and most users opt for black as it has the most contrast against a white label.
  • Wax/Resin Ribbon: This is a hybrid of wax and resin and offers exceptional print quality and is scratch-resistant and smudge proof. Suggested uses are for labels exposed to outdoor environments and we would recommended them to be used with paper and mid-range synthetic label stocks.
  • Resin Ribbon: Is the most durable, long-lasting choice of thermal ribbon. Typically, customers would choose this ribbon to asset track products that are exposed to extreme temperatures or outdoor environments. Resin printing can withstand water, chemicals, abrasions, oil and grease and are best combined with durable, synthetic labels.
Wax is a great choice for warehouse/shipping labelling…

Of course, if you are still unsure which thermal ribbon you need, you can call a member of our thermal ribbon team. We have 30 years experience with in-house printing and can tell you in mere moments which one you need!

We’ve also developed out own range of thermal transfer ribbons which could considerably lower your printing costs. We offer a free sample service too, allowing you to test your ribbon and application before buying. Finally with a huge in-house stock, we can get your ribbons out to you the very next day….

Call us now on 0103 502892 and we will happy to help!

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