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It’s Not Just the Label - Choosing the Correct Printer Ribbons for your Business Needs

Printer ribbons are used every day by thousands of organisations across the world, but few are aware of the importance of selecting the correct printer ribbon for their business needs.

Printer RibbonsSelecting the right type of thermal printer ribbon is critical for the on-going effectiveness of any label printing system. The combined quality of the label material and printer ribbon used will have a greater impact on your printing system than the hardware and software combined, so should not be overlooked. 

Download our Useful Guide to Selecting Printer Ribbons

Thermal transfer printing is a process in which a material is transferred to paper, or other material, by melting a coating of ribbon onto the material on which the print is applied. In order to obtain a high quality print, it is important that you identify which printer you have in addition to recognising what type of label and ribbon is suitable for the industry that your business operates within.

It is also important to consider what your labels will be used for, as certain ribbons are more suitable for particular applications than others. The application used by your organisation should drive the type of printing you do. Using an incorrect ribbon can have negative effects on the quality of the print and subsequently your business.  

There are three different types of ribbon to choose from:


Wax is the most cost effective ribbon used for general purpose tag and labelling. Applications include shipping, warehousing, retail, textile, and apparel. Wax ribbons are used when printing on uncoated and coated paper tags and label stocks and low end filmic labels. This is ideal for identification purposes only and will be thrown away as part of the packaging.

Wax Resin

Wax resin is the most appropriate choice when a higher level of scratch, smear or mild chemical resistance is needed in labelling applications. Wax resin is used on paper and vinyl, printing on to a broad range of label stocks, with excellent image durability. It is important to note that organisations often overlook wax resin and consequently unnecessarily overspend on resin labels. Therefore, understanding which ribbon is necessary for your particular print can save your organisation money.


Resin labels are best for use within harsh environments. Applications include chemical drums, electronics, pharmaceutical, medical device, automotive and industrial use. Resin ribbons are also predominately used in the chemical industry and most are BS5609 approved to meet the internationally recognised specification for printed, pressure sensitive adhesive coated labels, for marine use. For example, a chemical company would require BS5609 approved labels if they were shipping containers of chemicals so if there were an accident the shipment could be identified by the labels even if the shipment was to enter the sea. When working with chemicals, it is imperative that the labels remain intact even if they are submerged in water. Matching a BS ribbon with a BS approved material can guarantee this.

Prior to ordering printer ribbons, it is recommended that you ask for samples of each ribbon as the print can vary greatly. It is also worth checking whether the ribbons you order come with a pre clean function. This attachment cleans your print head before the print has taken place, reducing the cost of replacing expensive print heads in the long run.

If despite using samples you select the wrong ribbon for your business needs there are ways to improve the print quality. For example it is possible to change the temperature and speed settings in order to mitigate any potential problems caused by the wrong ribbon.

It is always best to seek advice in the outset to ensure the most appropriate type of ribbon is being used for industry purpose; this will help you avoid quality issues further down the supply chain when your labelled products have left your premises. Any member of our expert team would be happy to help and can be contacted by either phone on 01189 364444 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .