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Did you know thermal printers use heat instead of ink to produce labels?

According to a 2022 study, the global thermal printing market is expected to reach $48.8 billion by 2026. With benefits such as speed, durability, and cost-effectiveness, it’s not hard to see why thermal printing has become a popular choice for businesses in the transport and logistics sector.

What are the types of thermal printer?

There are two main types of thermal printers: direct thermal printers and thermal transfer printers.

Thermal printing (or direct thermal printing) is a process which produces a printed image with heat. The heat-sensitive paper’s coating turns black in the areas where it is heated and as a result, produces the required barcode image.

Thermal transfer printing, on the other hand, uses a heated ribbon to produce durable images. Thermal transfer printers are ideal for producing long-lasting labels and easily scannable barcodes, as well as till receipts, tickets, wristbands, vouchers, name badges, and much more.

Zebra ZQ610, ZQ620 and ZD200 series are high-quality examples of thermal printers. Here are some of the main benefits of using this technology in the transport and logistics industry:

Cost effective

With thermal printing, you won’t need to stock up on ink, toner or cartridges because thermal printers produce images through heat transfer, making them a more cost-effective option than traditional printers. Plus, a thermal printer has significantly lower maintenance costs thanks to fewer common printer issues including complicated repairs.


One of the biggest advantages of thermal printing is that you’re not just restricted to printing on paper. Depending on your choice of printer, thermal label printers can use a variety of tapes and ribbons and materials such as plastic, nylon, polyester, vinyl, and even heat shrink tubing. This makes thermal printers highly flexible and versatile across a wide range of industries and purposes.

More durable than ink printing

Labels produced using thermal transfer are far more durable than traditional ink on paper printing. Ink can bleed, smudge and fade due to time and the elements, but thermal prints offer much greater resistance, especially if you use pure resin combined with laminated material, for example.

Faster and more efficient

Thermal printers can print labels and receipts quickly, making them ideal for fast-paced environments like transport and logistics.

Productivity is paramount for shipping labelling operations, where workers are on tight schedules to meet pickup deadlines, so it’s important your thermal printer is able to perform at optimum speed.

Choosing the correct thermal technology can also impact the speed of your printer. Thermal transfer technology uses a ribbon which melts onto the surface to form an image on the label. This technology must be run at a lower speed to reduce the risk of ribbon wrinkle issues.

Alternatively, thermal direct technology prints directly onto a label without the need for a ribbon, allowing the printer to run at high speeds.

Direct thermal printing works well when the label’s life is short (such as a parcel label) or the product is stored at low temperatures, away from direct sunlight, making it a popular choice within the transport and logistics industry.

If you have any questions about thermal printers or the Zebra hardware we supply, contact our experts at