Thermal Transfer Printhead Technologies in Print and Apply Labeli
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Thermal Transfer Printhead Technologies in Print and Apply Labeling

Thermal Transfer Printhead Technologies in Print and Apply Labeling

By Steve Dods, Automated Labeling Products (ALP) and Thermal Transfer Overprinter (TTO) Products Manager

There are two common types of thermal transfer (TT) printheads in industrial print and apply labeling systems. One version is the Flat Head TT type, which has a relatively parallel contact between the heating elements of the printhead and the ribbon/label. The other is a Near-Edge TT type, which angles the head up to 45 degrees. There are advantages and disadvantages to these two types of technologies, which is why both existing in industrial printing.


Flathead illustration


Near-Edge Illustration


Printer Types

OEM industrial print engines, such as SATO and Zebra

Labeling system manufacturer's proprietary printer (VideoJet) and TTO (Thermal Transfer Overprinters)


Typically 5 million lineal inches, with proper cleaning and care

Typically 2.5 million lineal inches, with proper cleaning and care

Price (4" wide)

Around $450 to $700

Around $1000 to $1300


Up to 16 inches per second

Up to 19.7 inches per second

Consumable Cost (600m Ribbon)

$15 to $20 per roll,

Wax, Wax Resin, or Resin

$23 to $30 per roll,

Wax Resin or Resin only

Material Thickness

Head mount adjustments required

Less or no adjustment required


Near edge TT print heads are optimal for high-speed printing on surfaces that may have some variances, like film webs. They are mainly seen in these applications, where the alternative technology is ink jet or laser. Flat head technology is ideal for longer life, lower consumable cost, and lower overall replacement cost. As with most competing technologies, it comes down to the application requirements. For print and apply applications, the reliable and less expensive selection has been the venerable Flat Head TT print head. 

For more information on print and apply applications click here.  Or contact us at 800.722.1125.


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