The Process of Thermal Transfer Ribbons

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Heat Instead of Pressure

Thermal-transfer is a relatively new printing process invented in the 1980s by the Japanese company Sato. Sato was seeking a process capable of printing Japanese characters.


At about the same time, barcode and scanner technologies were capturing business in the USA and Europe. Thermal-transfer printing had just been invented and was most suited for printing barcodes.


It works with heat, and not pressure, to transfer color pigments onto a substrate with the heat from a foil carrier, the thermal-transfer ink ribbon. Since the printing process is dry, printed material is immediately ready to use. The print quality is generally high. Resistance to smearing and scratching, as well as to UV rays, depends as always on the thermal-transfer foil selected.

Thermal-Transfer Printing and the Printing Processes

Thermal-transfer printing delivers sharp-edged and enduring print results. It takes place at high speed and is thus very fast. Since thermal-transfer printing makes do without toxic substances, it is environmentally and clean-up friendly.


All of this has led to thermal-transfer printers long ago replacing other printing processes, especially in industry. But what exactly distinguishes thermal-transfer printers from matrix, laser, ink-jet and thermal printers?


Matrix printers don't cut the mustard when directly compared to thermal-transfer printers - barcodes are not sharp, and they are slow and loud. Laser printers are also significantly slower than thermal-transfer printers. The range of substrates they can print on is narrow and the print has a limited service life. Despite all these disadvantages, acquisition and maintenance costs of laser printers is high.


Ink-jet printer results get worse as they get older. Just like laser printers, they can only be used with certain substrates. Despite high acquisition costs, they deliver print results of limited durability. Heat-transfer printing also has many disadvantages: Print is not long-term UV-resistant, and printed substrates discolor over time. Overall, heat-transfer print is not long lasting.



Disposal of Thermal Transfer Ink Ribbons

Thermal-transfer printing is a very environmentally-friendly technology that generates no volatile organic compounds (VOC) and requires no special ventilation measures. Thermal-transfer foils from KURZ are neither hazardous to your employees nor to the environment. Ink ribbons are easily disposed of in household waste. Moreover, thermal-transfer foils have high thermal value, allowing for the option of energy recovery.

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