Thermal Transfer Printer

What Does Thermal Transfer Printer Mean?

A thermal transfer printer is a category of non-impact printer that uses heat to create an impression on the print media. It uses a carbon ribbon that, upon heating, is moved to the substrate. Unlike some types of printers, a thermal transfer printer can print in color, as the ribbons used can be of different colors and, as such, it is not limited to black print. A thermal transfer printer can produce prints that are durable and of very high quality compared to other types of printers and can be used with different types of print media.


Techopedia Explains Thermal Transfer Printer

Like all thermal printers, a thermal transfer printer is capable of high-speed printing. A thermal transfer printer consists of thermal print head elements that, upon contact, melt wax-based ink onto the print media and a microprocessor that evaluates which pins need to be used for printing the image. This printer is used for creating labels, bar codes, price tags and other specialty prints.

There are many distinct advantages in using a thermal transfer printer. Compared to other on-demand printing technologies, the image quality and durability of this printer are the best in the industry. Also, compared to other types of printers, this printer supports a wider range of media types such as polyester and polypropylene materials in addition to paper. It is also capable of withstanding extreme temperatures, sterilization, chemicals and even ultraviolet exposure.

However, there are some disadvantages in using a thermal transfer printer. It is expensive to operate and requires more time to change the ribbons and to load the print media. Moreover, it is not environmentally friendly as used ribbons must be disposed of.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.