The 10 Best Thermal Transfer Printers
This wiki has been updated 16 times since it was first published in March of 2019. Whether you need to create asset tags, specimen labels, or any other long-lasting identification media, thermal transfer printers are your best option. Your text and bar codes will last well over a year and won't be susceptible to heat or sunlight, as with direct thermal labels. Although you'll have to periodically replace the ribbon, there's no need for expensive ink or toners with these options. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 31, 2020:
Not to be confused with a thermal printer, which needs to be used with special thermochromic paper, these thermal transfer printers use a ribbon and a heated print head and can be used on a range of different media such as sticky labels, wristbands, and even heat shrink tubing. In this update, we made sure that the ranking includes models for a wide range of purposes, from smaller units ideal for home use or point of sale, to larger industrial-sized machines with a high throughput.
We added the Zebra ZD500t, because, while there are several other units from Zebra on the list, this model is a good all-round choice that combines a high output of six inches per second with a relatively small footprint. It also has built-in controls and a digital display, something only usually found on larger, more expensive models like the Zebra ZT410 and the Wasp WPL618. Also included is the Citizen America CL-S621 and the Sato CL6NX. The former is a versatile model that can be used in both direct thermal and thermal transfer modes and has a simple interface, whereas, the latter can be used as a stand-alone printer or easily connected to peripheral devices such as a barcode scanner or keypad,
April 18, 2019:
We ranked our selections based upon functionality, print quality and speed. Besides those, another major attribute you should keep in mind is printer footprint, which is tech-speak for how much space the printer will take up. Bulky models like the Sato CL4NX and Zebra ZT410 weigh over 30 pounds and only make sense for those who have high-volume printing needs. They also consume more power and are more expensive.
Desktop-sized printers like the Zebra GX430T are better suited for the more casual labelers among us.
Another crucial thing to pay attention to is what features are factory-built into a printer and what features require you to buy an accessory before you can take advantage of them. Some models require an adapter to be able to connect via Bluetooth, while the Wasp WPL618 requires you to buy a cutting mechanism separately.