Printer Considerations for Labels

Printing labels is a timeless business operation that is completed on a daily basis. However, not all labels are created or printed equally. Choosing the right printer for your label needs will depend upon the following printer attributes, features, benefits, and your label.

Impact Printers (Electronic Data Processing (EDP) Printers)

An impact printer, also known as an Electronic Data Processing (EDP) printer, uses a print head to strike directly against an ink ribbon and subsequently mark the paper. There are two common types of impact printers: a dot-matrix printer, which uses a vertical column of pins to generate specific characters, and line printers, which are valuable for high volume report printing.

Advantages of Impact Printers

  • They can use carbon or carbon-imprinted paper
  • They print one line at a time and can use continuous forms
  • Multiple carbon or carbonless copies can be printed at once
  • The two surviving line printer technologies are band printers and line matrix printers
  • Line printers are still widely used in data centers and in industrial environments
  • Impact printers can print multipart forms at a very rapid rate

Disadvantages of Impact Printers

  • They tend to print slowly
  • They can not print on clear plastic film or other transparencies
  • You can not print a barcode

Laser / Inkjet Printers


Laser Printers

Laser printers use a special laser to beam an image directly onto a rotating drum. The image attracts the toner, which is then transferred from the drum onto the paper via a quick baking process. Laser printers are known for creating precisely drawn text that is both sharp and clear. Laser printers typically function at a significantly higher speed than their Inkjet counterparts, and can easily handle large volume printing on multiple types of media.

Advantages of Laser Printers

  • Laser printers tend to cost less than inkjet printers on a daily basis
  • Toner cartridges typically last a long time and through several print cycles
  • They produce a sharp text quality
  • They have fast printing speeds
  • Color is available
  • Cost to operate is cheaper than most inkjet printers

Disadvantages of Laser Printers

  • Laser printers can typically be more expensive to purchase than inkjet printers
  • Toner cartridges tend to be costly to replace


Inkjet Printers

An inkjet printer uses tiny droplets of ink to create text and image. The ink must take time to dry, otherwise the image or text can easily become smudged. Inkjet printers are known for their ability to print on multiple medias at a high quality. They are also known for printing images in vivid color.

Advantages of Inkjet Printers

  • Inkjet printers tend to be affordable, especially when compared to Laser printers
  • Capable of printing high-quality, photo images on multiple types of media
  • Vivid colors are produced

Disadvantages of Inkjet Printers

  • Operation and maintenance costs can be higher than other printing options.
  • The cost per copy is one of the most expensive printing methods.
  • Slower printing print speed compared to most laser printers.
  • Ink cartridges have a shorter life.

Thermal Printers


There are two types of thermal printers: direct thermal and thermal transfer. The direct thermal printer does not use a ribbon, while the thermal transfer printer does use a ribbon.

Direct Thermal

Labels printed with direct thermal printers tend to be more sensitive to heat, abrasion, and light. This sensitivity is due to the fact that direct thermal printers use chemically treated, heat-sensitive media that blackens as it passes under the thermal printhead. Food industry and healthcare labels are often printed on direct thermal printers.

Advantages of Using Direct Thermal Printers

  • Only one supply item
  • Simple printer operation
  • Quality images
  • Cost efficient

Disadvantages of Using Direct Thermal Printers

  • Sensitive to environment and storage conditions
  • Limited substrates
  • Higher darkness setting


Thermal Transfer

Thermal transfer printers use a digital printing process where a material is applied to the label by melting a coating of the ribbon; in this way, the melted ribbon is glued directly to the material where the print has been applied. Thermal transfer printers are known for being able to print on a wide range of media, including foil, film, polyester, paper, and polypropylene materials. The adversity of the thermal transfer printers makes it easy to create common labels, tags, and tickets, as well as durable wristbands or asset tags. There are three primary types of ribbons: wax, wax/resin combination, and resin ribbons.

  • Wax Ribbons: These are typically used for general label purposes, such as shipping and receiving, compliance, bin, or retail labels. Wax ribbons print well on both coated and uncoated paper.
  • Wax/Resin Ribbon: The wax/resin ribbon offers a premium result and is typically used on horticulture, lumber, healthcare, outdoor, and shelf labels. The wax/resin ribbon prints well on synthetics, as well as coated and uncoated paper.
  • Resin Ribbon: The resin ribbon is reserved for ultra premium labels, such as automotive, healthcare, asset tracking, electronic components, UL/CSA, and chemical drum labeling. Resin ribbons print best on synthetic materials.

Additional features, benefits, and drawbacks of the direct thermal and thermal transfer printers can be found below.

Advantages of Using Thermal Transfer Printers

  • Durable image for both indoor and outdoor conditions
  • Images or text can be printed on a wide variety of materials
  • Variety of ribbon formulations and colors

Disadvantages of Using Thermal Transfer Printers

  • Two supply items
  • Ribbon must be compatible with the chosen facestock (paper, film, foil, etc.)
  • Higher supply costs

RFID Printers

RFID printers are specifically designed to write the data of RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, chips that are embedded in smart labels. Smart labels are standard printed labels that have the RFID chips and antennae embedded directly into the label. The RFID printer uses an RF encoder to transmit and encode vital data onto the chip. The printer then checks the data to ensure that it has been properly encoded. Once the chip has been embedded into the label, thus transforming it into a "smart label," it can be printed with regular image, text, barcode, or graphics.

Advantages of RFID Printers

  • Ability to create smart labels.
  • Can create on multiple types of media, including: paper, metal, polyacrylic, and polyester.
  • Easily create clear and durable images, texts, and barcodes on different sized labels.

Disadvantages of RFID Printers

  • These printers tend to be a bit costly.
  • All data must be properly encoded which can take extra time.

Contact us at United Ad Label if you have any questions or concerns; we are always here for you.