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Thermal Transfer Ribbon Printer Compatibility Chart & Buying Tips

By Online Labels
Thermal transfer printer alongside different thermal transfer ribbon choices

There are a couple of factors to consider when selecting a thermal transfer ribbon for your labels. The following information will help guide you through the process and find the right fit for your business.

Thermal Ribbon Printer Compatibility

Because each printer model has its own functionality, they all have their own lines of compatible ribbons. Below, we break down which ribbons go with which models in a series of charts. Before then, however, we address the differences between the two categories that each thermal printing ribbon is classified into.

Ribbon Categories / Wind Directions

Wind directions of CSO vs CSI thermal transfer ribbons

You may notice when shopping for these printer ribbons that there are two categories: coated side out (CSO) and coated side in (CSI). This refers to where the ink coating is on the ribbons, affecting how they're wound and fed through the printer. Most printers can only take one style or the other.

Coated side out (CSO) ribbons are printing ribbons that have the ink coating facing outside. To correctly insert this ribbon type into your printer, unroll it from the bottom and feed it underneath. Zebra® thermal transfer printers use CSO ribbons. Coated side in (CSI) ribbons are printing ribbons that have the ink facing inside. To correctly insert this ribbon type into your printer, unroll it from the top and feed it over. Datamax® and Sato® thermal transfer printers use CSI ribbons.

Printer Models and Compatible Ribbon Products

Below, you can view a list of which printer brands and models are compatible with our selection of thermal transfer ribbons.

CSO Thermal Ribbons for Zebra® Printers

Tip: You can scroll the chart left and right.

Printer Model TR2181 TR2182 TR2183 TR2622 TR2623 TR3101 TR3653 TR3654
Zebra® 105SL Plus
Zebra® 110Xi4
Zebra® 140Xi4
Zebra® 170Xi4
Zebra® 220Xi4
Zebra® GC420t
Zebra® GK420t
Zebra® GX420t
Zebra® GX430t
Zebra® ZM400
Zebra® ZM600
Zebra® ZT220
Zebra® ZT230

CSI Thermal Ribbons for Datamax® Printers

Tip: You can scroll the chart left and right.

Printer Model TR2624 TR2625 TR2626 TR2631
Datamax® E-4204B
Datamax® E-4205A
Datamax® E-4206L
Datamax® E-4206P
Datamax® E-4304B
Datamax® E-4305A
Datamax® E-4305L
Datamax® H-4212
Datamax® H-4212X
Datamax® H-4310
Datamax® H-4310X
Datamax® H-4408
Datamax® H-4606
Datamax® H-4606X
Datamax® H-6210
Datamax® H-6212X
Datamax® H-6308
Datamax® H-6310X
Datamax® H-8308X
Datamax® I-4212e
Datamax® I-4310
Datamax® I-4606
Datamax® M-4206
Datamax® M-4210
Datamax® M-4308
Datamax® p1115
Datamax® p1115s
Datamax® p1125
Datamax® p1725

CSI Thermal Ribbons for Sato® Printers

Printer Model TR2628 TR2630
Sato® CL408e
Sato® CL412e
Sato® CL608e
Sato® CL612e
Sato® GL408e
Sato® GL412e
Sato® GT408e
Sato® GT412e
Sato® GT424e
Sato® LM408e
Sato® LM412e
Sato® M84Pro
Sato® X-2000V
Sato® X-2300ZE

Printer Ribbon Sizes

There are a couple of criteria to consider when selecting a thermal transfer ribbon size. They are:

  • Label width. Pick the ribbon width closest to that of your most commonly used label. For example, if you're printing a 2.5 inch wide label, you should purchase a 3.27 inch ribbon as opposed to a 4.33 inch one. Any unused ink on the thermal transfer ribbon will go to waste otherwise. You should also be conscious to buy a width that fits in your printer.
  • Ribbon length. Typically, ribbons with a shorter length are intended for desktop thermal transfer printers while the longer lengths are intended for industrial ones. Our ribbons range from 243 feet to 1,476 feet.
  • Core size. Smaller printers don't have as much space to accommodate larger ribbon cores. While a 1 inch core is standard, smaller printers use a .5 inch core.

Ribbon Material

Once you've identified compatible ribbon choices and selected a size, it's time to select the ribbon material best suited for your application. currently offers two different thermal transfer ribbon materials: resin-enhanced wax (aka full wax) and durable wax/resin (aka wax-resin). Which type of printer ribbon you need will most likely be determined by the type of label material you're using and how you intend to use the labels.

Resin-Enhanced Wax Ribbons (aka Full Wax)

Resin-enhanced wax ribbons are the most economic choice of thermal ribbons. They are ideal for basic, general uses such as shipping and retail labels. Their full wax composition requires a lower melting temperature resulting in a lighter print. It's less durable but also less expensive.

Durable Wax-Resin Ribbons (aka Wax-Resin)

Wax-resin thermal transfer ribbons are more durable than the full wax of resin-enhanced ribbons. They provide excellent resistance to scratching, abrasion, and contact with moisture because their material is a combination of wax and resin. These ribbons are the perfect choice for printing labels that will be exposed to extreme conditions such as industrial refrigerators and freezers, as well as for applications that involve heavy or frequent handling.

For more help choosing a material, see a comprehensive analysis of thermal printing ribbon materials in our article, Understanding the Different Thermal Transfer Ribbon Materials.

Ribbon Quantities

When you're printing large quantities or are on a tight timeline, we'd hate for you to run out of ribbon in the middle of your project. Use our thermal ribbon calculator to determine how many ribbons your project will require. Select the label product number, label material, the number of label rolls you have, and your ribbon product number, then let the calculator do the rest.

Additional Assistance

Replacing Old / Used Ribbons

If you're buying a replacement ribbon and aren't sure what you've used in the past, follow these quick steps to find out:

  • Stick a piece of tape to the outside of your ribbon roll.
  • After a few seconds, peel the tape off.
  • If ink sticks to the tape, you were using a CSO ribbon.
  • If no ink sticks to the tape, you were using a CSI ribbon.

Label Materials

Don't put all this thought into the ribbon material and forget to consider what label material is best! We offer weatherproof thermal transfer labels that are just as durable as the wax-resin ribbon. Paired together, you'll have high-quality printed labels that stand up to the conditions they may face. For situations that are frequently changing, use our removable thermal transfer labels. If you need something in the middle, our standard white thermal transfer labels are exactly what you're looking for.

Label Sizes

Is your label size the best fit for your information? Our roll label selection for thermal transfer printers includes more than 75 unique label sizes for both 1 inch and 3 inch core sizes.

Hopefully the information provided here will make selecting the proper ribbon a little less daunting. If you need any additional assistance, please feel free to contact our customer service department for guidance. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding our thermal transfer ribbon selection.

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