Man operating a thermal transfer printer

Thermal Transfer Printing vs. Inkjet Printing

Written on July 01, 2020 by Jessica | Updated on April 24, 2024

4 min read

Thermal transfer printing and inkjet printing are two of the most common and reliable industrial printing processes. There are distinct differences between the two, so it’s important to know the advantages of each type and for which projects they are most suitable. This blog post will discuss thermal transfer printing and inkjet printing, how they work, their advantages, their differences, and their suitable applications.

What is Thermal Transfer Printing?

Thermal transfer printing is a cost-effective industrial printing method that uses a ribbon and a heated printer head. The head heats the ribbon, which transfers pigment onto the paper or other substrate. Thermal transfer printing ribbons are made of wax, resin, or a combined wax/resin hybrid.

These ribbons differ in capability, so it’s important to understand the details of your project before selecting a thermal transfer ribbon. Wax ribbons are cheaper and fine for short-term projects, resin ribbons are more expensive and required for long-term projects or printing jobs that require exceptional quality, and hybrid ribbons fall somewhere in the middle.

Thermal transfer printing offers a number of benefits, such as:

  • High-definition printing for optimal reading and scanning
  • Long-life image stability
  • Easy to learn and use
  • Virtually zero waste
  • Minimal long-term maintenance costs
  • Near-limitless printing capabilities
  • More durable than other industrial printing options
  • Produces durable glossy prints that can’t be easily written or marked on

What is Inkjet Printing?

Inkjet printing is another versatile and cost-effective solution for industrial printing. Unlike thermal transfer printing, which relies on heat and a ribbon to transfer ink, inkjet printing uses liquid ink ejected from the cartridge in very small dots—a single printed inch may contain thousands of dots. These dots ultimately combine to create images or text and facilitate the printing of nearly any color or design.

In industrial settings, inkjet printing can be used for a broad range of purposes. It is common for printing color labels, expiration dates, or alpha-numeric coding, but is also frequently used for more complex applications, such as printing on difficult materials such as inkjet-coated Tyvek.

Industrial inkjet printing has its own distinct advantages, including:

  • Can print on a wide range of substrates
  • Easy to use with minimal setup
  • Printers require no warm-up time
  • Produces photo-quality images

The Difference Between Thermal Transfer and Inkjet Printing

Despite the versatility of both thermal transfer and inkjet printing, there are distinct differences between the two printing processes beyond the printing processes themselves. Some of the primary differences include:

  • While inkjet printers generate very high-quality images, thermal printing images tend to be of a higher quality with better color saturation.
  • Thermal transfer printers are more durable because they have fewer moving parts than inkjet printers. They also tend to have a much longer service life.
  • Equipment cost: Thermal transfer printers tend to be more expensive than industrial inkjet printers, but their longer service life ensures that they are worth the investment. Thermal ink is typically more expensive than inkjet cartridges.
  • Thermal printing is significantly faster than inkjet printing, making it better suited to high-volume printing runs.
  • When it comes to printing on Tyvek, thermal transfer printing is optimal for medical-grade Tyvek, while inkjet-coated Tyvek isn't suitable for medical use, as the Tyvek needs to be porous to sterilize the packed contents.

Thermal Transfer Printing From DoraniX

At DoraniX, we design and manufacture industrial-grade thermal transfer printers that are suitable for product identification, barcoding, branding, and much more. Our specialty is providing integrated label printing solutions for your business. Our signature products are our Thermaprint 64 Series printers, which provide direct-to-package printing capabilities, as well as our LPA 8000 printer, which is a fully integrated label printer application system. Additionally, our thermal transfer printers make it easier to print on medical-grade Tyvek.

Our printing products are the best on the market and have served many industries. We pride ourselves in delivering high-quality printers and printing services to our customers every time. If you would like to learn more about DoraniX and why our printing solutions might be right for your business, contact us or request a quote today!

Recommended Posts

Back to blog