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Selecting the Right Label to Identify Finished Product

Drive Business Efficency And Realize Greater Value By Ensuring High-Quality Print And Durability Throughout The Product’s Life.

Product identification labels are now viewed as a critical mechanism for maintaining compliance, ensuring brand consistency, improving operational efficiency, and supporting business growth. They are the final link between company and key stakeholders including customers, consumers, care givers, patients, and regulators.
        There are thousands of types of thermal labels, and not all are created equal. Each material features different attributes that enable it to be utilized in different environments. It is critical that the labels one utilize are not only readable and scannable when they leave one operation, but throughout the products safe and appropriate use and disposal. This will reduce risk of non-compliance to government and industry mandates.

Thermal Printing Basics
        Before selecting a label solution, it is important that one understand the differences between direct thermal and thermal transfer printing technologies.
        Each method uses a thermal printhead that applies heat to the surface being marked. Thermal transfer printing uses a ribbon to produce durable, long-lasting images on a wide variety of materials. Direct thermal printing does not use a ribbon and instead creates the image directly on the printed material.

Direct Thermal Overview
        Direct thermal printing uses chemically treated, heat-sensitive media that blackens when it passes under the thermal printhead. Direct thermal printers have no ink, toner, or ribbon. Direct thermal materials offer a shorter life than thermal transfer, and may fade over time. Direct thermal labels offer minimal resistance to heat, light, abrasion, and chemicals. Exposure to these items will cause the material to darken, resulting in the text and barcodes that are unreadable.

Thermal Transfer Overview
        In thermal transfer printing, a thermal printhead applies heat to a ribbon, which melts ink onto the material to form the image. This technique provides image quality and durability that is unmatched by other on-demand printing technologies.
        Thermal transfer offers a wider variety of materials than direct thermal, including paper, polyester, vinyl, polypropylene and polyimide materials. Thermal transfer solutions are much more durable than direct thermal, as they are resistant to a wider variety of temperatures and chemicals.

Indoor / Outdoor: If one product will be subjected to the elements outdoors (rain, sun, etc.), a thermal transfer synthetic material would be the optimal solution, as the label and the image provide the added durability required to survive these tough environmental factors.
Life span Of Label: Knowing how long the label will need to be readable for in addition to the environmental factors will help you identify the optimal solution. For example, if the label only requires readability for six months and does not need to resist chemicals, moisture, and abrasion, a direct thermal paper label would best meet one needs.

What to Look for in a Supplier
        When choosing a thermal printer supplier, be sure to work only with a vendor that has the required certifications for industry, quality controls in place and does not substitute materials run-to run.

Conclusion
        Product identification labels are now viewed as a critical mechanism for maintaining compliance, ensuring brand consistency, improving operational efficiency, and supporting business growth. They are the final link between your company and key stakeholders including customers, consumers, caregivers, patients, and regulators. Direct thermal and thermal transfer printing provides high quality, efficiency, and flexibility for a wide range of applications. When choosing a thermal printing solution, one can rest confident knowing that Zebra’s selection of label and tag materials meets or exceeds the requirements of most applications and budgets. Zebra delivers over 100 paper and synthetic label and tag materials, 400 stock ZipShipSM products that are ready to ship, and UL/cUL and CSA approved materials.

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