Smith Corona Thermal Labels

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Thermal Labels and Ribbons

Last Updated: Mar 17, 2012 10:34PM EDT

Product Questions:

What is the difference between Thermal Labels and Direct Thermal Labels?
The main difference is direct thermal printing does not use a ribbon. Direct thermal printing does require the use of special heat sensitive substrate material. The printer head activates the heat sensitive coating on this material forming a black image. Thermal transfer printing uses a ribbon from which ink is transferred under heat and pressure to the substrate. If your printer has a ribbon, you want Thermal Transfer labels.
For Roll Labels, what size core do I need?
Most Label Printers use roll labels on 3" cores and approximately 8" diameter rolls. Some smaller table top printers such as the Zebra/Eltron TLP2844 use 1" core labels and approximately 4.5" diameter rolls. Many Portable battery powered printers such as the Zebra QL® series use .75" core labels.
Do I need a ribbon in my printer?
Ribbons are used only with thermal transfer labels not with direct thermal labels.
What are the key factors in selecting a ribbon?
Ribbon width:
  • The ribbon width should extend past the edge of the label material to prevent damage to the print head from abrasion by the label material. For example, a 2.5 wide label would require a 3 inch wide ribbon. Many ribbons are actually larger than their specified width (4 inch ribbons, for example, are typically 4.33 inches wide).
Ink Configuration (IN or OUT):
  • Specify the brand of printer when you purchase ribbon to assure ribbons are wound in the correct configuration - either ink side wound "in" (also called "coated side in" - CSI) or ink side wound "out" (also called "coated side out" - CSO).


Ribbon Roll Core Size:
  • Typical desktop unit: 0.5 inch ID cores
  • Typical table top unit: 1 inch ID cores
  • Be sure to confirm the ribbon is designed for your printer brand as some cores also have special slots in the core to fit in ribbon feed mechanism.
  • Ribbon Roll Length:
  • Roll length equates to maximum roll diameter. All printers have a maximum roll diameter that they can accept.

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