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A now discontinued CompTIA’s RFID+1 certification used to be required in order to learn how to use thermal transfer RFID printers. Thankfully, now almost anyone can use such a printer. However, it still is a good idea to know the major differences, even if it won’t show up in an exam nowadays.

However if it did, something along a question on thermal transfer vs. thermal direct could show up in the exam! But that’s fine, we can help you out.

So basically, there are two types of paper stock:

1- Thermal transfer printing
The printer uses a normal label media (e.g. paper) and a ribbon. The print head supplies heat. The heat is transferred to the ribbon which contains ink. The heated ink then transfers to the label. Et voilà! The advantage is that the label stock is more economical. It will last longer and is heat and scratch resistant.

2- Thermal direct printing
The labels themselves are heat sensitive. They turn black when heated by the print head. (Ever try to iron a crinkled up fax made from the older style fax paper, or any of those gas station or POS reciepts? A colleague of mine once did. It turned completely black.) The advantage to this method is that no ribbon is necessary. That means you don’t have to look for one.

Direct Thermal vs Thermal Transfer Labels

Say you have some labels in front of you, and you’re unsure if they’re thermal transfer or direct thermal labels, how would you tell them apart?

Direct thermal labels are plain labels coated with a chemical which reacts with heat and UV rays. Since using flame would be dangerous, and exposure to consistent UV light to darken such a label would take time, we take a different approach.

Another way is to use a blunt object to mark the label. If that marking turns black, then its a direct thermal label. If the label stays white, then its a thermal transfer label.

Want to know more about thermal labels? Click here to see our range, or click here to see what thermal labels are used for.


1: Retired CompTIA Certifications:

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