Thermal Transfer Ribbon Printer Compatibility Chart & Buying Tips
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
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
|Zebra® 105SL Plus||●||●||●||●||●||●||●|
CSI Thermal Ribbons for Datamax® Printers
CSI Thermal Ribbons for Sato® Printers
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.
Once you've identified compatible ribbon choices and selected a size, it's time to select the ribbon material best suited for your application. OnlineLabels.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.