Thermal transfer ribbon grades

Date Posted:14 May, 2024

Product: Thermal Ribbon

Thermal transfer ribbon

Wax thermal transfer ribbon

Cost effective but less durable

Composition and characteristics

Wax ribbons are made primarily of wax-based ink. They are the most economical option and are widely used for general-purpose printing. The ink on wax ribbons melts at a lower temperature, which allows for faster printing speeds and reduced wear on print heads.


Wax ribbons are ideal for printing on paper-based labels and tags. They provide good print quality for barcodes, text, and simple graphics. However, they are less durable compared to other types of ribbons and are more susceptible to smudging and scratching. Typical applications include:

  • Shipping labels

  • Warehouse labels

  • Retail tags

  • General-purpose labels

Advantages and disadvantages


  • Cost-effective

  • High printing speed

  • Suitable for high-volume printing


  • Less durable

  • Susceptible to smudging and scratching

  • Limited resistance to chemicals and abrasion

Wax/resin thermal transfer ribbon

A well balanced option

Composition and characteristics

Wax/Resin ribbons are a blend of wax and resin-based inks. This combination provides a good balance between durability and cost. The ink on wax/resin ribbons melts at a higher temperature than wax ribbons, resulting in a more durable print that is resistant to smudging and scratching.


Wax/Resin ribbons are suitable for printing on a wider range of materials, including both paper and some synthetic labels. They are used in applications where labels need to withstand moderate handling, exposure to chemicals, and varying environmental conditions. Common uses include:

  • Outdoor labels

  • Asset tracking labels

  • Product identification labels

  • Inventory labels

Advantages and disadvantages


  • Greater durability than wax ribbons

  • Resistant to smudging and scratching

  • Suitable for a variety of materials


  • More expensive than wax ribbons

  • Requires higher printing temperature

  • May not be as durable as full resin ribbons

Full resin thermal transfer ribbon

The most robust

Composition and characteristics

Full Resin ribbons are made entirely of resin-based ink. These ribbons offer the highest durability and are designed for use in demanding applications where labels need to endure harsh environments. The ink on full resin ribbons melts at the highest temperature, creating a print that is highly resistant to abrasion, chemicals, and extreme temperatures.


Full Resin ribbons are ideal for printing on synthetic materials such as polyester, polypropylene, and vinyl. They are used in applications that require long-lasting labels with excellent resistance to environmental factors. Typical uses include:

  • Chemical drum labels

  • Industrial labels

  • Laboratory labels

  • Medical device labels

  • Automotive labels

Advantages and disadvantages


  • Maximum durability

  • Resistant to extreme temperatures, chemicals, and abrasion

  • Suitable for high-demand applications


  • Most expensive option

  • Slower printing speed due to higher melting temperature

  • Requires compatible synthetic label materials

Which is right for you?

We're here to help

Selecting the appropriate thermal transfer ribbon depends on the specific requirements of your printing application. Here are some key considerations:

  • Material: Match the ribbon type to the label material. Wax ribbons are best for paper, while wax/resin and full resin ribbons are suitable for synthetic materials.

  • Durability: Consider the environmental conditions the labels will face. Use wax for general purposes, wax/resin for moderate durability, and full resin for maximum durability.

  • Cost: Balance your budget with the durability needs. Wax ribbons are the most cost-effective, while full resin ribbons offer the highest performance at a higher cost.

We have given you some pointers in the right direction here, however, we are always happy to help and provide specific advice for your use case. Contact us via our website or give us a call to find out more.

We’ll solve your printing requirements

Give us a call or complete our online quote form to get started. Our team will then guide you through the process, from artwork approval to printing and delivery.