There are two thermal printing methods: Direct thermal and Thermal transfer. Both of these methods mean the printer uses a Thermal Printhead to apply heat to the surface that is being printed on.
Direct Thermal printing uses media which has a chemically treated surface. When heat is applied to this chemical coating, it turns the area black and the printed information is then visible.
You will often find Direct Thermal printing being used for such things as Shipping / Address labels, Barcode labels or labels which are only required for short term use. This is due to direct thermal media being very sensitive to the environment it's being used in. Heat & Direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time can affect the media's appearance and readability. The chemical coating also remains active once printed on, meaning that without the media being top coated the media is also susceptible to damage in transit such as scratching to the surface.
If you require your media to be printed and used for more long term use, Thermal Transfer maybe the best option for you. With Thermal Transfer, you will often find the media being used has a glossy / shiny surface (Semi Gloss). The print head of the printer, heats a wax, wax resin or full resin ink ribbon which melts on to the surface of the media to form the image / text.
When matched with suitable media, thermal transfer technology is not only impervious to heat and moisture, but the image cannot be rubbed off, making the printed labels the most durable available.
Still unsure which would be best suited for your needs? Feel free to get in touch for some additional advice - "Contact US"