People, frequently, ask us about thos difference, and so, we consider we have to make it clear. The technology they use is practically the same. The printhead warm the zones where happens the thermal transfer of the symbol.
If the printer is a thermal transfer model, the head warms a ribbon that transfers the color on the label below in common, special, synthetic paper, or, on magnetic cards (magnetic tape), chip card, badge or smartcard. If the printer is a direct thermal model, the print process is the same, but, instead of using a ribbon, it uses labels in chemical paper (that's thermal) that reacts to the head's warmth by colouring the support, the label. Someone, now, could think the printers are almost the same, but they have a different commercial definition. Not at all!
The direct thermal printers use a head that is not able to melt the ribbon is wax or resin, they don't get to temperature such as to allow the warnth transfer from the ribbon to the label. So it results that the thermal transfer printers have the double function of the thermal transfer and direct thermal transfer equipment. Another difference is about the colorof the printed symbol or character / type.
The direct thermal printer is not able to choose the colour: the thermal paper, exposed to the warmth, returns just the black. The thermal transfer printer usually uses the black, but exsist coloured ribbon: monochrome for the label and polycrome for the badge. Last, but not least, difference is that the thermal labels have a shorter duration than those in common, special or synthetic paper; accidental erasings on the printed farm are possible, they can be caused by sources of warmth like the sun or the radiators. The print, besides, tends to fade during the time, giving rise to the well-known phenomenon with which, in time, the thermal print tickets (thermal paper receipt) become unreadble.
To look over thermal transfer printers follow this link .
To look over thermal printers follow this link