Wax Thermal Transfer Ribbons
Wax thermal transfer ribbons are the most common ribbon types used by thermal transfer printers. Wax-coated thermal ribbons feature a wax-based ink coating, either on facing in or out on the thermal ribbon roll, which releases the ink onto the substrate after contact with the printer’s heated printhead. The location of the coating (facing in or out) depends on your thermal printer’s specifications, so be sure to purchase the correct orientation for your specific printer.
Wax Thermal Transfer Ribbon Characteristics
There are several ink formulations for thermal ribbons: wax, wax-resin, and resin. Each has specific characteristics and is ideal for different applications. A wax thermal transfer ribbon tends to be a general purpose choice. This is your most basic and most common ribbon type. As such, wax thermal transfer ribbons tend to be the most affordable.
Because the thermal printhead essentially melts the ink onto the label or tag, thermal wax ribbons are sensitive to heat and UV light. A wax thermal transfer ribbon will be less durable than wax-resin or full resin ribbons as well as produce lighter graphics, barcodes, and text. Items printed with wax thermal transfer ribbons will fade with time and environmental exposures.
Wax Thermal Transfer Ribbon Applications
What are wax thermal ribbons used for? Though they are less durable than the other types of thermal transfer ribbons, not all applications require longevity. For example, many labels, tags, and printouts will serve a single use and then be discarded soon thereafter. Why spend more for wax-resin or resin ribbons when it’s not necessary?
Typical use cases for wax thermal transfer ribbons include:
- Address labels
- Shipping labels
- Meal tickets
- Room service printouts
- Deli and food service labels
- Butcher counter labels
- Appointment reminders
- Warehouse and inventory labels
- Visitor’s passes and name tags
Library book checkout tags
Wax thermal transfer ribbons are typically used with top-coated paper label materials. They should be used for applications with little to no exposure to abrasions or chemicals.
Wax Thermal Transfer Ribbon Considerations
Wax thermal transfer ribbons come in a wide range of configurations, which can make it confusing if you’re new to thermal transfer printing. Below are some key points to keep in mind:
- Coated side in versus coated site out — As mentioned earlier, you’ll need to determine whether your printer requires the wax-coating to be wound on the ribbon roll facing in or out. This is specific to your printer and how it feeds the ribbon through the printhead.
With a coated side out ribbon, the ribbon roll’s wax coating is on the outside of the roll. If you touch the outside of the roll, you will be touching the wax coating. The ribbon must be unwound from the bottom and fed underneath the roll to ensure that the wax coating faces the substrate and can be released onto it.
With a coated side in ribbon, the ribbon roll’s wax coating is on the inside of the roll. If you touch the outside of the roll, you will not touch the wax. As with the coated side out ribbon, the coated side in a wax thermal transfer ribbon must be unwound so that the wax coating faces the substrate. In this case, you would unroll it from the top and feed it over the roll to ensure that the wax coating faces the substrate.
- Wax thermal transfer ribbon length — Wax thermal transfer ribbons come in a variety of lengths, which affects ribbon cost and how often you need to replace the ribbon. The longer the ribbon, the larger its outside diameter, so be sure to find out the maximum outside diameter your thermal transfer printer supports before ordering an extra long thermal transfer roll. In general, desktop thermal transfer printers will support shorter rolls while industrial thermal transfer printers will accept much longer rolls.
- Wax thermal transfer ribbons width — Another consideration involves the width of the thermal transfer ribbon. Ribbon width affects the maximum width of your prints. If you have a 4-inch thermal transfer printer, you can print labels of varying widths up to 4 inches across. However, you don’t necessarily need a 4-inch thermal transfer ribbon for all of your label printing projects. We recommend ordering a ribbon width that matches the largest width of your most commonly printed label. For example, if you plan on printing 2-inch labels on a 4-inch thermal transfer printer, a 2.5-inch ribbon width would be an efficient choice that would waste less ink than a wider ribbon.
- Wax thermal transfer core size — Wax thermal transfer ribbons come on different sized cores. The core is the cardboard tube the ribbon is wound around. Typical core sizes are 1-inch and .5-inch cores. 1-inch cores are standard whereas .5-inch cores are intended for smaller thermal transfer printers.
- Wax thermal transfer ribbons colors — Black is by far the most common color of wax thermal transfer ribbons, but other colors are available including blue, gold, green, red, silver, and white.
Shopping for Wax Thermal Transfer Ribbons
Optimedia Labs has a large selection of wax thermal transfer ribbons in various configurations, lengths, widths, core sizes, and colors. You can shop by printer brand and model, which makes it easy to find a wax thermal transfer ribbon 100 percent compatible with your thermal transfer printer. Simply find your brand and model and browse for ribbons. If you already know what you have in mind, for example, if you want a 2-inch coated side in blue ribbon on a 1-inch core, use our filters to filter our selection of wax thermal transfer ribbons to those that match your specifications.
We can also help you find the right ribbon type for your specific printer if you need help, and we’ll be happy to send you a free ribbon sample for testing purposes upon request.