Thermal Transfer Ribbon

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Thermal Transfer Ribbon

Buy or wholesale the best quality thermal transfer ribbon at the lowest price in China.

Sunavin provides Wax Ribbon, Wax Resin Ribbon, Resin Ribbon, Wash Care Ribbon, Hot Stamping Foil, and Near Edge/TTO Wax/Resin Ribbon, each with Standard, Premium, Color, and Custom options. Whether you’re a factory, business, or distributor, We have the perfect thermal transfer ribbons.

Suitable for use with thermal transfer label printers from Zebra, TSC, Polaroid, Godex, Argox, Datamax, SATO, Toshiba, and more.

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Sunavin: Best thermal transfer ribbon Factory, Manufacturer
and Supplier From China

Sunavin is a leading manufacturer of thermal transfer ribbons in China, boasting 16 years of expertise in ribbon production and OEM services. We offer comprehensive printing solutions, including barcode printers and thermal printheads.

Recognized as a national high-tech enterprise, Sunavin’s reputation extends beyond China. We’ve successfully collaborated with over 7,500 customers in 50+ countries and regions, aiding over 600 overseas entrepreneurs in establishing their businesses with Sunavin Solutions.

Whether you’re already in the barcode printing industry seeking expansion or looking to enter and gain experience, Sunavin provides a one-stop barcode printing procurement service.

We offer free technical support and online training to streamline your operations, alleviate the burden of sourcing and coordinating suppliers, and enhance efficiency.

Certification System

Certification REACH
REACH Certification
Certification ROHS 2.0
ROHS2.0 Certification
Certification ISO 9001 14001
ISO9001/14001 Certification
Certification MSDS
MSDS Certification
Certification HALOGEN
HALOGEN Certification

Thermal Transfer Ribbon Buying Guide

This catalog is designed to give you clear product details and clear up any confusion about terms.

At Sunavin, we know how tough it can be to make the right choice when terms start getting mixed up.

That’s why we’ve written this guide to give you a quick rundown of our products, explain terms, and help you understand how to install and use thermal transfer ribbons effectively, with important tips.

It’s all about guiding you to make the best decisions for your thermal transfer printing needs.

What is the thermal transfer ribbon?

Thermal transfer ribbon is a crucial consumable for barcode and label printers. It’s made by coating one side of a PET Base Film with meltable ink (wax, resin, or a mixture), and applying a Back Protection Layer on the other side, forming what we call a thermal transfer ribbon.

A typical thermal transfer ribbon consists of several parts: Release Tab, Leader Tape, Ribbon, Trailer Tape, and Core.

Disassembly Diagram of Thermal Transfer Ribbon_1_1

Disassembly Diagram of Thermal Transfer Ribbon

The Leader Tape, positioned at the front of the Ribbon, serves for product identification and protection.

The Ribbon, our go-to functional segment of the thermal transfer ribbon, usually comprises the Top Coating Layer, Ink Layer, Inner Coating Layer, PET Base Film, and Back Protection Layer:

Layered structure of thermal transfer ribbon_1_1

The layered structure of the thermal transfer ribbon

The top Coating Layer enhances ink adhesion on labels, boosting resistance to environmental factors.

Ink Layer determines the ribbon’s usage characteristics, such as chemical resistance and friction prevention.

The inner Coating Layer ensures a smooth printing surface and consistent ink release from the base.

PET Base Film is the carrier for all layers, crucial for thermal conductivity.

The Back Protection Layer reduces wear on the thermal printhead, minimizes static electricity generation, and enhances heat transfer.

Trailer Tape, located at the end of the thermal transfer ribbon (though some may not have it), serves as a warning to the barcode printer, indicating the ribbon is running out.

The Core of a thermal transfer ribbon commonly comes in two types: paper and plastic. The primary requirement is that it must not deform and should remain stationary during printing.

So, what are the specific classifications of thermal transfer ribbons?

Classified by the main material of the ink layer

1. Wax Ribbon:

Wax ribbon is one of the most common types of thermal transfer ribbon, typically used for label printing and general product identification.

The ink layer is primarily composed of wax and carbon powder, making it economical easy to use, and suitable for various label materials.

However, due to limited durability and waterproofing, it may not be suitable for certain professional applications.

2. Resin Ribbon:

The ink layer is primarily composed of resin and carbon powder, offering the highest durability, and resistance to abrasion, heat, and corrosion. Some formulations can withstand steam pressure, while others can endure washing or dry cleaning.

It’s highly suitable for applications requiring high print quality and durability, such as chemical and healthcare labels.

However, due to its higher cost, it’s typically only used in specific industries with strict requirements.

3. Wax Resin Ribbon:

The ink layer is primarily composed of wax, resin, and carbon powder, combining the characteristics of both wax and resin, providing excellent print quality and durability.

This type of thermal transfer ribbon is suitable for applications requiring a longer lifespan and higher print quality, such as manufacturing and logistics labels, balancing price, and print performance.

How to evaluate the merits of the above thermal transfer ribbons?

Unfortunately, although the above thermal transfer ribbons have different compositions and characteristics, it’s difficult to simply determine which is better.

Because the evaluation criteria are multifaceted, including medium adaptability, sensitivity, print quality, resistance tests, application scenarios, price, etc.

Remember, there’s no best thermal transfer ribbon, only the one that best fits your needs.

Classified by Coated Side

CSO and CSI_1_1


When selecting thermal transfer ribbons, you’ll notice two options: 

coated side out (CSO) and coated side in (CSI).

These refer to the position of the ink coating on the ribbon, directly impacting how it wraps and feeds into the label printer.

Choosing the wrong coated side can lead to consequences like printing on the ribbon but not on the labels themselves. Unfortunately, many barcode printers only support one of these options.

So, before purchasing, it’s essential to know which type of thermal transfer ribbon (CSO/CSI) matches your printer.

If you’re unsure, feel free to reach out to us. Our experienced experts can provide you with the answers you need.

Classified by Printer Printhead Usage

1. Flat-Head Ribbon:

In flat-head ribbon setups, the thermal transfer ribbon lies flat between the thermal printhead and the labels, staying parallel to the label surface.

During printing, the thermal printhead applies direct heat and pressure between the ribbon and labels, causing the ink layer to transfer onto the labels.

Schematic of Flat-Head ribbon_1_1

Schematic of Flat-Head ribbon

2. Near-Edge Ribbon:

In near-edge ribbon setups, one side of the thermal transfer ribbon is positioned between the thermal printhead and labels, while the other side contacts the label surface.

During printing, the thermal printhead applies heat and pressure, transferring the ink layer from one side of the ribbon onto the labels.

This arrangement is typically used in specific printers and scenarios, such as those requiring higher printing speeds or where print quality requirements are less stringent.

Schematic of Near-edge ribbon_1_1

Schematic of Near-edge ribbon

Special Thermal Transfer Ribbons

1. Wash Care Ribbon:

Wash Care Ribbon_1_1

Wash Care Ribbon

Wash Care Ribbons can be cleaned with water, typically used for temporary labels or short-term printing tasks. Using Wash Care Ribbons reduces environmental impact and allows for easy cleaning and reuse.

2. Hot Stamping Foil:



Hot Stamping Foil adds a metallic foil effect during printing, commonly used for tasks that require enhanced visual effects, such as special promotional materials, greeting cards, etc. Hot Stamping Foil imparts a sense of luxury and unique texture to printed items.

3. Highlighter Ribbon:

highlighter ribbon_1_1

highlighter ribbon

Highlighter Ribbons have fluorescent effects under blacklight, often used for printing tasks that require prominent marking, such as warning labels or important reminders.

Feeling overwhelmed after diving into the thermal transfer ribbon encyclopedia? Uncertain about how to choose?

Don’t worry, keep reading for more guidance.

What are the applications of thermal transfer ribbons?

applications of thermal transfer ribbon_1_1

Applications of thermal transfer ribbon

We’ve compiled some primary application areas along with the most commonly used types of thermal transfer ribbons for your reference:

1. Industrial Manufacturing

Resin Ribbon is used for assembly and maintenance in industrial equipment, typically for sealing, bonding, and labeling.

2. Electrical Industry

Resin Ribbon is employed in circuit board manufacturing and maintenance, as well as for marking and packaging electrical products.

3. Electronics Industry

Resin Ribbon is utilized in the assembly, packaging, and maintenance of electronic products, such as semiconductor packaging and labeling electronic components.

4. Logistics and Transportation

Wax Resin Ribbon is used for marking goods, packaging, sealing boxes, and for tracking and identification in logistics management.

5. Food Industry

Wax Ribbon is used for food packaging, especially in the packaging of fast food and frozen food, providing sealing and freshness functions.

6. Medical Devices

Resin Ribbon is employed for packaging, labeling, and sealing medical devices to ensure product quality and safety.

7. Chemical Industry

Resin Ribbon is used for packaging, labeling, and sealing chemical products, as well as for maintenance of chemical equipment.

8. Household Items

Wax Ribbon is used for labeling, packaging, and sealing household items such as detergents and laundry powder.

9. Retail Industry

Wax Ribbon is used for product labeling, price tags, and packaging, as well as for tracking and identification in sales management.

10. Horticulture and Floriculture

Wax Ribbon is used for labeling plant names, types, and care instructions for management and sales purposes.

11. Automotive Industry

Resin Ribbon is employed for marking, packaging, and assembly of automotive components, as well as for labeling and tagging in automotive repairs.

12. Aerospace

Resin Ribbon is used for marking, packaging, and maintenance of aerospace components, ensuring durability and reliability of products.

13. Footwear and Bags

Resin Ribbon is used for labeling, packaging, and assembly of shoes and packaging products.

14. Clothing Industry

Resin Ribbon is used for clothing labels, price tags, and packaging, as well as for labeling and packaging in garment production.

15. Telecommunications

Resin Ribbon is employed for marking, packaging, and maintenance of electronic communication products to ensure product quality and reliability.

Of course, quality assessment standards vary from person to person, as do thermal transfer ribbons, labels, and barcodes.

Not confident about the thermal transfer ribbon you’re about to purchase? No worries, Sunavin offers two free rolls of thermal transfer ribbon samples for your testing.

Practice makes perfect.

The manufacturing method and main characteristics of thermal transfer ribbon

Sunavin has meticulously designed our production process because we understand the significance of PET Base Film in barcode printing:

1. Substrate Preparation:

PET Base Film_1_1

PET Base Film

Firstly, selecting a suitable substrate as the support material for the thermal transfer ribbon is crucial. Common substrates include polyester film or similar materials.

The choice of substrate should consider its heat resistance, smoothness, and chemical stability.

2. Coating Formulation:

Coating Formulation_1_1

Coating Formulation

Next, preparing the thermal transfer coating is essential. This coating typically consists of components such as resin, wax, and pigments.

These components provide the required printing performance, such as good thermal transfer and image quality.

During the coating formulation process, ensuring thorough mixing of various components to form a stable solution is necessary.

3. Coating:

Fully Automated Coating Machine_1_1

Fully Automated Coating Machine

Evenly applying the coating solution onto the substrate surface.

Coating can be done using methods like roller coating, spraying, or other suitable techniques.

The coating process ensures that the coating is evenly distributed on the substrate surface, forming a thin and uniform layer.

4. Curing:

After coating, the curing process is necessary to bond the coating with the substrate and form a stable structure.

The curing process typically involves drying or other suitable heating treatments to evaporate solvents in the coating and fully cure the coating with the substrate.

5. Processing:

After curing, further processing of the thermal transfer ribbon can be carried out.

This may include applying a protective layer (usually resin) on top of the coating layer to enhance the quality and durability of the printed material.

Throughout the processing, ensuring each step maintains the final performance and quality of the thermal transfer ribbon is essential.

6. Slitting and Packaging:

Thermal Transfer Ribbon Slitting_1_1

Thermal Transfer Ribbon Slitting

Finally, the thermal transfer ribbon is slit into appropriate widths as needed and packaged for transportation and sale.

The slitting and packaging process ensures that the product meets customer requirements and remains stable and intact during transportation and storage.

Each roll of high-quality thermal transfer ribbon, compatible and with clear printing effects, is the result of continuous improvement during the cutting process.

Now that you understand the manufacturing process of thermal transfer ribbons, how are they made layer by layer? The answer lies here.

We choose 4.5um film as the substrate and employ advanced roller coating technology to evenly apply key layers onto the PET Base Film.

These layers include PET Base Film, Inner Coating Layer, Ink Layer, Top Coating Layer, and Back Protection Layer. Each layer is carefully designed to enhance the performance and printing quality of the final product.

Feeling familiar? You’re right; these were mentioned earlier. Now, let’s delve into the role of each layer:

1. PET Base Film:

The foundation of the thermal transfer ribbon is PET Base Film, a transparent and elastic material capable of withstanding stress under high temperature and pressure. The selection of this layer directly impacts the stability and durability of the thermal transfer ribbon.

2. Inner Coating Layer:

Located between the Ink Layer and PET Base Film, the Inner Coating Layer interacts with the thermal printhead’s heat energy, allowing the pigments in the Ink Layer to release appropriately and transfer to the printing surface. Additionally, the Inner Coating Layer provides protection and stability to ensure print quality.

3. Ink Layer:

The core of the thermal transfer ribbon is the Ink Layer, containing the actual printing pigments. The material and quality of this layer directly affect the clarity and stability of printing. Common materials for the Ink Layer include resin and wax, which melt quickly at high temperatures and adhere to the printing material.

4. Top Coating Layer:

The Top Coating Layer is the surface layer of the thermal transfer ribbon, responsible for receiving the heat energy from the thermal printhead and transferring it to the printing surface. This layer typically consists of materials resistant to high temperatures and abrasion to ensure clear and durable printing effects.

5. Back Protection Layer:

At the bottom of the ribbon, the Back Protection Layer is designed to protect the PET Base Film from damage during use. This layer usually possesses excellent wear resistance and corrosion resistance, ensuring a longer lifespan for the thermal transfer ribbon.

Next, let’s talk about mineral oil.

Mineral Oil_1_1

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil (MOH) is a hydrocarbon mixture derived from petroleum, mainly consisting of saturated hydrocarbon mineral oil (MOSH) and aromatic hydrocarbon mineral oil (MOAH). MOH, especially MOAH, has potential carcinogenic and mutagenic properties and can pose health risks to humans through various pathways such as environmental pollution, lubricants in food processing machinery, production aids, food additives, and food contact materials, attracting attention from various countries.

Printed paper products are considered to have a high risk of mineral oil exposure to the population because mineral oil is a typical raw material for almost all types of offset printing inks (solvents for the resin used as adhesives). Therefore, several countries have begun to restrict and monitor the mineral oil content in paper products.

In short, mineral oil is a harmful substance, which used to be one of the main components in the manufacture of thermal transfer ribbons.

Eco-friendly thermal transfer Ribbon_1_1

Eco-friendly thermal transfer Ribbon

Now? Sunavin says “No!” to mineral oil.

Our latest manufacturing process utilizes green, non-polluting synthetic oils as substitutes for mineral oil, primarily including poly-alpha olefins or liquid paraffin. These alternatives may offer similar performance and functionality while potentially being more environmentally friendly and health-safe.

Sunavin is leading the way in green and sustainable development.

What does Sunavin provide?

Sunavin offers detailed product specification sheets, including Thickness, Ribbon width, Ribbon length, Packaging, etc., to assist customers in selecting the appropriate specifications.

Complete specs of ribbon_1_1