Spotlight on Thermal Transfer Labels: 3 Practical Uses
Thermal Transfer Labels Revolutionize Record-Keeping and Control
Digital technology has ushered in breakthroughs in nearly every business and industry, ranging from manufacturing to information services. Thermal transfer printing is an example of a process generated by the digital age that has far-reaching applications.
Most often used to print such things as barcodes and unique images, it is actually a simple process in which printer, ink, and substrate “transfer” an image by working together. Most of its users don’t care to know how it works, but they care very much that it works reliably.
The short version is that heat is used to melt ink from a ribbon so that it stays applied to the material on which it was printed. The heat allows the ink to be thermally transferred from the ribbon to the paper or label. (Conversely, in direct thermal printing, no ribbon is present.) The low-maintenance process produces a high-resolution image that is durable and long lasting.
The printers themselves are generally economical, require little maintenance, and produce high-quality images. Thermal transfer labels, which require thermal transfer ribbons, most often use wax ribbons as the transfer medium because it is the least expensive and the image produced is suitable for most uses. Wax/resin and resin labels are more durable, however, and the printed image is more adaptable to variable conditions.
Manufacturing Data Control
Thermal image printing is frequently used to deliver one-off coding used in packaging and shipping applications. Manufacturers use the process to identify and categorize lot codes and information such as serial numbers, expiration dates, production data, and shipping details. The option variables are virtually limitless due to the many printer and ribbon varieties, and users should select configurations to maximize effectiveness for their organization’s needs.
In any warehousing situation, thermal transfer labels can be used for inventory control and data management as easily as it is employed to monitor shipping and receiving information.
International Product Security
The field of worldwide supply chain security is another primary use for the process. With a growing problem of counterfeit goods and misappropriated information, this modern technology is valuable in introducing covert identifiers that are only detectable with specialized equipment. It is a boon for product protection, and its forensic uses are still being evaluated, but it has already been established to track evidence on chain of custody forms.
Users have only scratched the surface of the potential for public and private utilization of this technology. New developments in the print heads and the ribbon configurations are sure to bring new innovations.
Breakthroughs in the medical field aren’t confined to treatment procedures and patient care. The latest applications of technology are changing the worlds of record-keeping and patient management. Thermal barcoding for such things as medication dosage control and inventory management is emerging as an important aid for healthcare professionals.
New barcoding procedures assist medical record-keepers at all stages of operation, including labeling of test tubes and slides in laboratory situations and specimen tracking for testing procedures. The potential for reducing errors and improving productivity is evident, contributing to a high acceptance rate for thermal transfer barcoding throughout the healthcare industry.
Considering Your Needs
As you evaluate the potential for thermal image printing in your own field, consider its integration into your current world of office supplies, forms, record keeping, and customer interaction. Chances are good that you will uncover a variety of opportunities to explore its possibilities.