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The advantage of using ribbons

The advantage of using ribbons

In high volume applications there may be tens or hundreds of kilometres of labels passing under the printhead over a year. The head is under pressure and this causes a lot of abrasion on the printhead which will inevitably suffer over a period of time. Eventually the print quality will detriorate to such an extent that the head will need replacing.

However, using a high quality thermal ribbon instead of direct thermal labels will drastically reduce this wear because thermal transfer ribbons have a protective backcoating which is designed to smoothly slide under the head, reducing the abrasive action of the labels. The head can be futher protected by regularly cleaning with an alcohol based cleaning swab.
One of the primary benefits of thermal transfer technology is its simplicity.

The printhead on the machine is built up of hundreds of tiny heating elements which heat up and cool down as the ribbon passes underneath. The ribbon is coated with a heat sensitive ink which becomes molten for a split second under the printhead and is transfered to the label. By controlling which elements of the printhead are heated and by matching this to the speed that the label is passed through, the printer creates a pattern on the label.

For best results

There are a number of factors which will affect the quality of the printed image and these need to be considered when choosing a ribbon.

Firstly your particular printer will not be able to use any ribbon. There are two principle head design technologies on modern printers - near edge and flat head. With near edge printers, the heating elements are situated right at the trailing edge of the head, just before the labels exit the machine. With flat head machines the elements are further behind and the ribbon and label pass along together after printing for a few millimetres. Generally ribbons are designed for one or other of these technologies (although some ribbons will work just as well on both technologies).

Secondly the label material is important. Some paper labels are designed specifically for themal transfer printing and have a very smooth surface for crisp, clean printing. A very course paper will produce poor results by comparison. Synthetic labels - matt or glossy usually require different ink formulations to successfully work. With so many ribbon / label combinations possible it is best to test a sample to be sure.

For best results
Finally, there are certain variables you can set on your printer which will drastically affect print quality, head pressure, head temperature and print speed all have an influence. If you are struggling to find a good ribbon/label match, try increasing the head temperature, modifying the print head pressure or alter the print speed - either faster or slower.

If you are unsure please call us on 0118 973 6002 - we will be pleased to offer advice and samples for any application.