Printing Terms: Thermal Labels vs Direct Thermal Labels – What Are They Really?

Printing Terms: Thermal Labels vs Direct Thermal Labels – What Are They Really?

10th Sep 2019

Here at Print.Save.Repeat., we offer a wide variety of label products for your printing needs, but while browsing it is easy to see there are often two denotations that stand out, Thermal and Direct Thermal. The two kinds of labels are seen commonly, but what do they really mean?

What are Thermal and Direct Thermal Labels?

Essentially, both of them have the same application, ink being applied to label paper using heat. Despite their similar application, though, there are important and nuanced differences that distinguish these two types.

How does thermal printing work? This process (technically a form of digital printing) creates an image by selectively heating and cooling a set of dots, which are then dragged over heat sensitive paper that turns dark in the heated areas.

When the print head passes over its heat sensitive paper, the areas that come into contact with the pins change color creating an image. The Thermal printing process requires a specialized paper known as thermal (or thermochromic) paper – the paper is coated with a mix made from a dye and a developer, and when the developer is heated above its melting point, the dye reacts with the acid and changes color. Thermal printing, through this intricate process, produces hardy and long-lasting labels for your business.

Direct thermal, on the other hand, is when the ink is directly applied to the label (minus the heating ribbon). This method works equally as well in practice, however in comparison to its non-Direct Thermal counterpart, the finished product sometimes has less durability and can fade or rub off over time/usage.

When are each label used?

Considering the differences between Thermal and Direct Thermal Labels, the question of which type to buy should be clear – If a company’s label needs are primarily for indoors or face-to-face interactions, they likely do not need to worry about the product’s durability and will opt for the Direct Thermal Labels. On the other hand, businesses who do need to consider the durability of their label products will utilize Thermal Labels.

For all those who are not familiar with this complex terminology, we sincerely hope that this blog post can help make things clear. If you have any more questions, feel free to browse our other blog posts or call us directly at 800-587-1173.

Thank you for browsing Print.Save.Repeat., for competitive offers visit our store page, we are confident you will choose us for your label and toner needs.