With the widespread adoption of digital label printing, […]
With the widespread adoption of digital label printing, the need for on demand thermal printing has been reduced to some degree but continues to have a strong presence in the marketplace for specific uses.
Digital printing can replace many of the capabilities thermal printing has to offer specific to custom label packaging, such as adding sequential barcodes, serial numbers, or expiration dates. Now, with digital printing's ability to incorporate variable data and imaging, this type of information can be added directly on the press during the initial label run. While Digital Printing for heat transfer label may not address the on demand needs of a grocery store chain's deli department, that was never its intended use.
With conventional TT Printing a company might order a moderate quantity of a single label design and size, produced on a flexographic press. This label would likely have a specific defined area or window used to add a barcode (static or sequential), consecutive numbers, or a unique product name. The printed labels could then be processed through a Thermal Transfer printer in smaller quantities to meet the client's specific requirements. The purpose for doing so, beyond the need to revise any one of these additions on the fly and provide "just in time" label inventory within the client's operation, is commonly to reduce the inherent plate charges associated with multiple items.
The illustration above is an example of the thermal printing process transferring an image to pre-printed and diecut series of labels through the use of a heated print head. This process is similar to transferring an image with a typewriter ribbon. In the case of the direct thermal printing process (not pictured) the ribbon is replaced by a heat activated label material that when activated by an electronic print head produces the desired image in black. Thermal printers (one example shown in the image below) can utilize both a wax or wax/resin ribbon or non-ribbon direct thermal type of printer to produce average quality labels. The choice of ribbon and material type is dependent upon the expected use of the labels and the application.