Thermal Printers for eCommerce

Thermal print labels are important in ecommerce because they provide a cost-effective and efficient way to print high-quality, durable labels for a variety of purposes, such as shipping labels, product labels, and packaging labels. They offer fast printing speeds, produce clear and legible text, and can be easily integrated with ecommerce shipping and fulfillment systems. Additionally, thermal print labels are resistant to fading, smudging, and tearing, making them ideal for use in a variety of environments and conditions. As a result, thermal print labels are widely used in ecommerce to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and ensure that labels are clear, readable, and long-lasting.

Types of Thermal Printers

There are basically two types of thermal label printer used in ecommerce. They are Direct Thermal Labels and Thermal Transfer Labels

1. Direct Thermal

What Is Direct Thermal Printing?

Uses a heated printhead to print images and text onto heat-sensitive label rolls, resulting in sharp-quality labels. These labels generally last between 6-12 months.

Heat is used by a direct thermal printer to print on the surface. It requires a unique kind of heat-sensitive material that turns black when heated but does not use ribbon, ink, or toner.

The label’s heat-sensitive substance fades with time, making it challenging to read and scan. Direct thermal labels are also vulnerable to abrasions, exposure to water, chemicals, and direct sunshine.

Common Direct Thermal Printer

Direct thermal printing is not the ideal option for long-term use. However, for many purposes, direct thermal printing still offers a long enough lifetime. For applications like shipping labels, receipts, tickets, and labels for perishable commodities where a label must survive less than one months, direct thermal is typically the best option.

Direct thermal printers are more compact because of their simpler, ribbon-free mechanics, and the majority of mobile printers use this technology.

Direct thermal printers are also simple to use and have fewer potentially defective components because they don’t require ribbons to print. These printers often cost less to buy and need less maintenance and repair work than thermal transfer printers. Additionally, even though direct thermal labels are slightly more expensive, you don’t have to spend money on ribbons.

  • Needs only label rolls to print
  • Ideal for shipping labels, receipts & wristbands
  • Produces sharp quality label prints
  • No inks, toners or ribbon is needed
  • Maintenance cost is very low
  • Not suitable for harsh environments
  • Print batch or single labels with virtually no waste

2. Thermal Transfer

What Is Thermal Transfer Printing?

Uses a heated printhead and wax ribbon to print images and text onto label rolls, resulting in higher quality & longer-lasting labels. These labels can last up to many years in the right conditions

In order to produce a durable, high-quality print, thermal transfer printers use ribbons consisting of wax or resin-based ink that melt into the printing surface (such as a label or something similar). Unmatched printing quality and durability are provided by this technique.

For long-term applications where the printing material will be utilised for more than six months or will be subjected to challenging elements like chemicals, light, high temperatures, or water, thermal transfer printing is the best option. Thermal transfer printing is therefore ideal for asset tracking, blood bags and laboratory specimens, outdoor uses, permanent identification, and cold and freezer storage.

Common Thermal Transfer Printer

Paper, plastic, and polyester are just a few of the printing media that thermal transfer offers. The lifespan of these materials varies, with polyester having the longest lifespan and being the most resilient. For best endurance, label materials can be carefully matched with various ribbon kinds. Additionally, thermal transfer printers give users the choice of using coloured ribbons to enhance label look or to utilise color-coded labels to simplify operations.

13624 129648313624
  • Needs wax ribbon and label rolls to print
  • Ideal for warehouse and supermarket labelling needs
  • Produces very high-quality labels with long-life stability
  • High initial, but low long-term maintenance costs
  • Perfect for harsh environments & extreme temperatures
  • Print on a wide variety of media

Schematic image showing how direct thermal printing works compared to thermal transfer printing

Image Credit:

Direct Thermal Sticker Labels

Direct thermal sticker labels are a type of self-adhesive label that are printed using direct thermal printing technology. Direct thermal printing uses heat-sensitive paper that turns black when exposed to heat from the print head, producing a high-quality, durable print that is resistant to fading, smudging, and tearing. Direct thermal sticker labels are widely used in a variety of industries, including e-commerce, retail, and logistics, for printing shipping labels, product labels, and packaging labels.

Note: Make sure to check the core size of the Ribbon roll and sticker label rolls. Most Thermal Printer has 1 Inch cores while some have a 3-inch core diameter.

Thermal Transfer Labels Ribbon

Thermal Transfer Barcode Wax Ribbon is ideal for printing sharp, crisp, rotated barcodes, labels and tags at high speed with any Branded Thermal barcode printers available in the market. Great barcode printing ribbon are used in Food & Beverage, Health & Beauty, Inventory & Logistics, Pharmaceutical, and Retail Industry.

It offers dense and crystal clear black prints that are easily readable and have high quality. These consumables are Print head safe, offer variable length and dimensions, excellent scanning even in harsh conditions. There are many varieties of ribbons available in Wax-Resin and Resin grades.

Sticker Labels for Thermal Transfer Printers

Thermal transfer technology: Requires the use of a ribbon to print, compatible with Zebra, TSC, Honeywell, Datamax, Intermec, Sato.

Smudge-Free & Fade-Resistant labels. Print darker & sharper barcode UPC labels that permanently adhere to virtually any surface. Perfect for FBA and as return address labels.

The Verdict

If you need labels with a shorter life span for applications like shipping, receipts and wristbands then choose: Direct Thermal Transfer Label Printers 

If you need long-lasting high quality and durable labels for applications like warehousing, cold storage, and outdoor labelling, then choose: Thermal Transfer Label Printers

Direct thermal printing uses heat-sensitive paper that turns black when exposed to heat from the print head, while thermal transfer printing uses a ribbon to transfer ink onto the paper. The quality of printing is generally better with thermal transfer, but it is also more expensive. Direct thermal is more cost-effective and is often used for simple printing tasks like printing shipping labels.

10068 81116910068

Let us know your feedback on this article “Thermal Printers for eCommerce” in the comments below 👇


Sunil Kumar Sah @DigitalSunilSah 

Sunil is an E-commerce Seller, Blogger, YouTuber and Digital Marketer. He is a digital enthusiast and passionate about Online Selling. He loves sharing his knowledge and experiences on eCommerce in this blog and on his Hindi YouTube Channel “Ecommerce with Sunil” and the English Channel “Ecomsprint


Blogger | Digital Marketer | Ecommerce Seller

Leave a Reply