Technical Support FAQs

What is direct thermal printing?

Direct thermal printing (also called thermal printing) occurs when an image is produced by selectively heating the thermal paper as it passes over the thermal print head. The specialized coating on the paper will turn dark where heat has been applied, thus producing an image.

What is direct thermal?

Direct thermal can refer to a digital printing method (see What is direct thermal printing?) or it can also refer to the specialty coated paper that is used for direct thermal printing. When referring to the specially coated paper, direct thermal is a thermochromic paper (or film) that has specific chemicals that are designed to react when the paper or film comes in contact with the heat from a thermal print head.

What is direct thermal labels?

Direct thermal labels are pressure sensitive labels that have a specialty coating (thermochromic) that when they are used in a direct thermal printer, the image is activated on the label when the label comes in contact with the heat from a thermal print head.

Do thermal printers use ink?

No. Thermal printers are designed to be used with direct thermal labels or tags, or with thermal transfer ribbon and a receiver. When the specially coated labels or tags, or the ribbon comes in contact with the thermal print head in the thermal printer, an image is produced. With direct thermal, the image is produced by selectively heating the thermal paper as it passes over the thermal print head. With thermal transfer ribbon, an image is produced by selectively heating the ribbon and transferring the substance onto the desired surface.

How long does the image on direct thermal last?

It depends on several factors.

Over the years, the performance of direct thermal has seen exponential improvements through technological advances. Today’s direct thermal archivability is much greater than the products from ten plus years ago. Of course, environmental exposures, such as solvents, sunlight, etc., can still effect the direct thermal coating causing a reaction in the thermal imaging. Eliminate those exposures, and the scannability of the printed image can last for many years.

One of the many advantages of Ricoh’s products is our top-coating. This protection layer minimizes the degradation of the image that may occur as a result of the harsh environmental exposures.

How do I choose between direct thermal and thermal transfer ribbon?

Knowing the answer to this question relies on your understanding of the label application. Since direct thermal performance has improved, some applications previously thought to be thermal transfer ribbon only may be worth testing out a direct thermal solution.

There are advantages for either solution. In a healthcare setting, image reliability is critical, but using thermal transfer ribbons puts patient information at risk since ribbons leave the transferred information on the ribbon itself. So a direct thermal solution may be better suited.

As well, with other regulatory requirements, like BS5609, a thermal transfer ribbon solution may be better suited to stand up against the harsh environments required for this application.

Let the experts at Ricoh help you make the determination between direct thermal and thermal transfer ribbon. We have decades of experience behind us to help you and your customer get the right solution for your application. Click here to contact a sales representative.

Are Ricoh products BPA free?


How do I determine the diameter of a roll of direct thermal media?

Follow this link to the Roll Diameter Calculator.

Does Ricoh make thermal transfer receivers?