Direct thermal printing cost increases

Since 2017, costs for operating direct thermal printing technology have steadily been increasing due to the unavailability of materials. With thermal transfer printing, the best alternative solution is often readily available.


Large volumes of direct thermal printing materials are used in everyday life. Many receipts, tickets and self-adhesive labels are printed on direct thermal papers in cost-sensitive markets, such as food, retail and transport. 


Direct thermal printing requires a heat sensitive label material. Due to direct contact between the print head elements and the heat sensitive material, the exposed heat from the print head elements causes a colour change in the material to create the printed image. For thermal transfer printing, a thermal transfer ribbon is additionally required to print the ink onto any sort of substrate. 


The basic method of printing direct thermal was long considered easier than thermal transfer printing for many printing purposes.


Since 2017 however, prices of direct thermal paper have increased tremendously. Due to environmental regulations, a number of manufacturers of leuco dye, the basis of direct thermal paper, was closed. Amongst these companies was the main manufacturer of leuco dye, resulting in a total estimated worldwide leuco dye shortage of at least 70%.


At the time of writing, there are no signs of the direct thermal printing market returning to normal, as it is unclear if the closed manufacturing companies are re-starting operations and at which capacity. Therefore it is impossible for analysts to make safe assumptions about the future of direct thermal printing.


Due to similar environmental regulations, prices for pulp, which is used for paper making, have also increased. The total cost of ownership for direct thermal printing has therefore already become critical for a number of companies to keep their business going forward. At a time of global economic growth and subsequent material needs, this situation is causing great concerns. Thermal transfer printing is the go-to alternative.


For some years, the costs for direct thermal printing were fairly similar to thermal transfer printing. However, the cost-gap is making thermal transfer printing very economical and could be a lifesaver for markets and consumers as a solution to the material shortage. 





Thermal transfer printing advantages

Many direct thermal printers have a dual function to print both direct thermal and thermal transfer, so what other benefits does thermal transfer printing have over direct thermal printing?

•    Thermal transfer printing offers longer lasting print heads. 
Contrary to direct thermal, there is no direct contact between the print head and the label material; therefore a 3 to 4 time longer print head lifetime is expected.
•    Thermal transfer prints are often more resistant to smudging and fading of the print. 
A poor print quality could lead to difficult barcode-readability, which results in costly supply chain errors or longer waiting times at cash registers.
•    Thermal transfer can print on many different substrates. 
It offers printing solutions for many different packaging materials, including directly on the packaging for long-term storage and readability of printed information.
•    Thermal transfer printers have become more customer-friendly. 
To minimize downtime for changing materials, many different lengths of media can be loaded into the printer for a longer output of printed labels.
•    Thermal transfer printers have become increasingly eco-friendly. 
More and more thermal transfer printer manufacturers provide printers with ribbon-save technology to optimize the usage of the thermal transfer material and therefore creating less waste. 
•    Thermal transfer printed labels have a longer life. 
Exposure to heat changes the colour of many direct thermal labels. Standard labels printed with thermal transfer ribbons can still be read off long after printing.
•    DNP’s thermal transfer ribbons are free from controversial Bisphenol-A (BPA). Although many governments are banning BPA from food packages, it is still commonly found in direct thermal papers.


Still doubting if thermal transfer printing is for you? Then put our thermal transfer ribbons to the test and discover their advantages for yourself. Request a free TTR sample!