Thermal Transfer Ribbons

Thermal transfer is a competitive printing technology that enables companies to print their own labels according to their business needs.

Thermal transfer printing uses a temperature-sensitive ink (thermal transfer) ribbon that transfers ink to paper or synthetic label material when heated.

There are three main types of thermal transfer ribbon: wax, wax-resin and resin.

Wax Ribbons

Wax ribbons are coated with an ink that’s essentially made with wax-based components. Wax ribbons are the most popular thermal transfer ribbon for thermal printers. Wax-based inks have a good adhesion on almost all types of substrate and are perfect for printing barcodes and many types of labels.

Wax ribbons deliver great print quality on the following label materials:

  • Rough vellum papers
  • Matt coated papers
  • Glossy coated papers

Typical uses include storage, shipping, crate labels, distribution labels, tags, bags of parts, signage and logos.

The advantages of wax thermal transfer ribbons include:

  • Ideal for short-term use
  • Good printing quality & ensure a good readability/scanning of barcodes, digits & characters
  • Fast print speed up to 12ips depending on the label/ribbon combination
  • Good ink blackness, even on rough label materials like vellum
  • Lower cost than wax-resin and resin ribbons
  • Receptor multi-compatibility: the ink has a good adhesion on coated or uncoated labels
  • Low energy required to transfer the ink, helping to extend the print head lifetime

What makes wax ribbons different from wax-resin and resin ribbons?

Print Durability

the softer ink is more vulnerable to scratching and smudging. Wax-resin or resin ribbons should be used for applications that require more durability.

Printer Compatibility

Wax ribbons work on flat-head printers, whereas wax-resin and resin ribbons can also run on near-edge printers.

Print-head Heat Setting

Wax inks have a lower melting temperature compared to wax-resin and resin ribbons and therefore impose less stress to the print head.

Label Compatibility

Wax ribbons are suitable for uncoated or matt coated surfaces. Wax-resin and resin ribbons are more suited to synthetic label substrates.

Wax Ribbons

Wax-resin thermal transfer ribbons are made with a combination of wax and resin based ingredients.

Wax-resin ribbons are the most versatile in terms of usages as they respond to a very wide array of label printing needs in the logistics, production or distribution sectors.

Wax-resin ribbons can print almost all types of label and packaging film substrates:

  • Paper labels – vellum, coated & glossy coated
  • Synthetic labels – polypropylene, polyethylene & polyester
  • Flexible packaging films

Typical uses include signage and logos, frozen food packaging, laboratory, hot food packaging, tags, flexible packaging, outdoor products, automotive, medicine packaging, distribution labels, fresh produce, bags of parts, bottles, pallets, shipping and tyres.

The advantages of wax-resin thermal transfer ribbons include:

  • Multi-use – can be used for very broad label printing needs and several applications with different requirements can be answered with one ribbon
  • Print durability – good resistance to scratch, smear, scuffing or rubbing
  • Very good printing quality – the heat sensitivity of the ink provides a great sharpness and print precision
  • High speed capability – both on label materials (12ips) and flexible packaging films (32ips)
  • Excellent receptor multi-compatibility – paper labels, synthetic labels, flexible packaging
  • Very good blackness – the high density of the ink (up to 2.2 ODR) provides a very clear readability and barcode scanning
  • Compared to a wax ribbon, a wax-resin based ribbon will print faster, offer a stronger print durability and a higher print quality.

What makes wax-resin ribbons different from wax or resin ribbons?


Wax-resin ribbons are more “technical” products than wax ribbons, so their price is higher. They are, however, cheaper than resin ribbons which offer a premium and more durable solution.

Print Resistance

It’s higher than that of wax ribbons (better smudge and scratch resistance) but lower than resin ribbons (regarding scratch, heat and solvent resistances).

Print Speed

Wax-resin ribbons print as fast as most wax ribbons, but at higher speeds than resin ribbons.

Label Compatibility

Wax-resin ribbons print on any kind of label materials, whereas wax ribbons are operational on synthetics. Resin ribbons don’t provide as good print quality on paper materials.

Printer Compatibility

Unlike wax ribbons, wax-resin ribbons can run with all thermal transfer printers or coders, regardless of the print-head technology. This is why there are wax-resin ribbons for flat-head printers and for near-edge and corner-edge printers.

Resin Ribbons

Resin thermal transfer ribbons are designed for the most demanding applications that need resistance to mechanical stresses, high or low temperature environments or solvents.

The best printing receptors for resin ribbons are:

  • Paper labels – glossy coated
  • Synthetic labels – polypropylene, polyethylene & polyester
  • Specific labels – polyimide, acrylate & textile
  • Flexible packaging films

Typical uses of resin thermal transfer ribbons include laboratories, signage and logos, rating plates, medical devices, industrial labels, electrical components, bags of parts, blood bags, plant marking, chemicals, printed circuit boards, care labels, tyres, frozen food packaging, hot food packaging and flexible packaging.

The advantages of resin thermal transfer ribbons include:

  • High print durability even in very harsh environments
  • Excellent resistance to solvents and to high temperature
  • Excellent resistance to smudging and scratching
  • Good resistance to high temperatures
  • Excellent printing quality thanks to a high sharpness capability

What makes resin ribbons different from wax and wax-resin ribbons?

Print Resistance

resin ribbons provide the highest durability compared to any other thermal transfer ribbon.

Print Speed

Resin inks require more energy from the print-head to transfer to the receptor. The printer speed must therefore be lower (max 10ips) compared to wax-resin ribbons.

Label Compatibility

Resin ribbons deliver a premium print quality on premium label materials as well as on specific materials such as textile garment labels. The versatility of resin ribbons is, however, more limited than wax-resin ribbons, especially on uncoated or some coated papers.

Printer Compatibility

Similar to wax-resin ribbons, there are resin ribbons that run with all thermal printers or coders, regardless of the print-head technology. This is why there are resin ribbons for flat-head printers and for near-edge ad corner-edge printers.