Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Printing Technology

Which is right for you?

What is a thermal printer?

Instead of inks or toners, thermal printers use heated elements to activate or transfer printed text or images. A thermal printer can use either direct thermal or thermal transfer printing technology to produce high-quality output that holds up better to wear, tear, and environmental elements.

Direct thermal or thermal transfer? See what technology is right for you >>

Real work applications for thermal printing


From work-in-process and asset tags to barcode and shipping labels – print what you need to track materials accurately, help reduce costly errors, and move goods quickly.

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Transportation & Logistics

Meet increasing ecommerce demands with high-quality, accurate labels for picking, packaging, barcodes, shipping, and more.

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Get end-to-end tracking for both distribution and fulfillment with labels for inventory, shipping, barcode, shelf, and beyond.

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Improve supply chain visibility, reinforce quality, reduce fulfillment errors, and streamline warehouse errors.

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Why use thermal printing?

Thermal printers are capable of producing durable labels and receipts at high speeds. They can also print other documents more reliably than inkjet printers and boast a slew of other benefits that make them your best bet for plenty of printing applications.

  • Low cost of ownership – no ink or toner means your cost per page doesn’t change
  • Reliability – fewer moving parts means fewer components that can break
  • Speed – starts printing almost immediately without warmup or cartridge cleaning
  • Versatile – print in almost any environment and orientation without worrying about shaking, freezing, or spilling your ink or toner
  • Print quality – precise temperature and placement for higher-quality characters and graphics
  • Less maintenance – no inks or toners and no scheduled maintenance parts
  • Ease of use – open the cover, drop in the roll, and print

Direct thermal vs. thermal transfer

Both direct thermal and thermal transfer print technologies use a thermal print head that applies heat to create the markings. But there are key differences between these two options. Wondering which one is right for you? Take a look.

Direct thermal printing

A direct thermal printer prints by applying heat to the material. It does not use any ribbon, ink or toner, but it requires a special type of heat-sensitive material that blackens when heat is applied.

Thermal transfer printing

Thermal transfer printers use ribbons made of wax or resin-based ink that melt onto the printing media and create a long-lasting, high-quality image. This technique provides unmatched printing quality and durability.

Choose from a range of powerful direct thermal and thermal transfer printers


Brother Titan Industrial Printer Series

Print clear, scannable barcodes around the clock at up to 14ips and even scale up to 600dpi. Get seamless system integration and convenient connectivity from an industrial barcode printer.


4” Desktop Thermal Printers

Produce highly durable, archive-quality labels that are resistant to wear and fade – whether you need a few or up to 500 labels per day. Count on simple software compatibility, a full suite of integration tools, and versatile connectivity options.


2” Desktop Thermal Printers

Create up to two-inch labels, tags, receipts, and wristbands wherever you need them. With a footprint up to 25 percent smaller than competitive printers and available rechargeable battery packs, these desktop models convert easily into mobile print stations.


PocketJet Full Page Mobile Printers

Out-of-the-box ready to print full-page documents with high-resolution pictures, text, and graphics—all from popular tablets, smartphones, and laptops.



RuggedJet 2”, 3”, & 4” Mobile Printers

Compact, rugged, and highly connected for 1” to 4″ labels, receipts, and documents from handhelds, tablets, and smartphones.



P-touch Desktop Laminate Label Printers

Print durable, laminated labels that last – even in harsh environments. Wirelessly print labels up to 36mm wide using easy drop-in tape cartridges.



P-touch EDGE Handheld Laminate Labelers

Print high-quality labels virtually anywhere you need them. These easy-to-use labelers empower professionals in the field to quickly create serialized and barcoded labels that last.

Put one to the test

Request a free demo printer today! We’ll help you select the right features for your application.

Mobility for your specific industry

*Labels shown are for illustrative purposes only. Actual output (such as fonts and margins) may vary.


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