The most common label printing technologies are inkjet, laser, and thermal label printing. We’ve looked at inkjets versus laser printers in the past, so let’s take a look at inkjet versus thermal label printing.
Inkjet color label printers use water-based inks. The inks are typically packaged into ink cartridges or ink tanks. Some inkjet label printers use a single ink cartridge containing cyan, magenta, yellow, and sometimes black where others use individual ink cartridges for each of the four colors. A printhead disperses the ink droplets onto the label media, resulting in beautiful color labels. Inkjet label printers are capable of high resolutions.
With inkjet color label printers, there are two types of inks: dye and pigment. These ink types have different purposes and characteristics. Dye-based inks are commonly used to print “prime” labels due to their vivid colors while pigment-based inks are commonly used to print industrial labels due to their longevity and durability. The different ink types lend themselves to different label materials and finishes. Glossy paper and synthetic labels are often used with dye inkjet label printers while matte synthetic labels are often used with pigment inkjet label printers.
Thermal label printers do not use ink cartridges at all and color is limited to black and whatever color the label itself is, or if a colored thermal ribbon is used, the single color of the ribbon. Thermal label printers tend to have much lower print resolutions than inkjet label printers, and thus, are typically used for industrial labeling purposes such as barcode printing, inventory labels, asset management, food service labeling, retail tags, and so on.
Thermal label printers come in two types: direct thermal and thermal transfer. Direct thermal label printers do not use a ribbon. They use heat and heat-sensitive label materials to produce the image. Thermal transfer printers use a ribbon and heat to transfer the ink from the ribbon onto the label material.
While thermal label printers have dominated the industrial label and barcode printing space for decades, Epson’s new ColorWorks C6000 and C6500 inkjet color label printers offer the advantages of inkjet label printing — and full color — with the advantages, reliability, costs, and features of industrial thermal label printers.
What type of color label printer is right for you? We’d love to hear how you use label printers in your business, and if you need help figuring it out, we’re here to help you do just that.