Demand for Thermal Heats Up
For the crispest bar code printing, direct your attention to thermal-transfer tags and labels
By Misty Byers
Due to their excellent print qualityideal for bar-coding applicationsthermal-transfer sales have soared in the past years. And while industry professionals agree that the growth will continue, change is on the horizon.
"The thermal label market is huge, and is going to get bigger," noted Dick Thiel, vice president, Badger Tag & Label, Random Lake, Wis. "but synthetic thermal is going to grow even faster."
He noted that the steel industry will be the biggest source of the demand for thermal synthetics. "Fifteen years ago it was retail, and retail is thermal paper. Now industrial companies want bar coding, and are buying printers," Thiel explained. In addition, harsh environment ribbons for thermal-transfer products are reaching new plateaus of durability.
"Some of the new ribbons are unbelievable in terms of quality and longevity," said Thiel. "Companies are developing ribbons that can go into acid and ribbons that are tamper-proof. Eighty-five percent of the ribbons sold are still basic $12 wax ribbons, but the field is wide open now because of the industrial market."
"I can't think of one application that you can say I have to use dot matrix for this,' " offered David Keener, senior account manager for Mid City Columbia in Dayton, Ohio. While many in the industrial marketplace still use dot matrix, he agreed that the thermal-transfer market is growing substantially.
"Many people that were using dot matrix are switching over to thermal-transfermainly because it's easier," Keener explained. "If they are in a UL situation with dot matrix, there are two or three inks in the whole country that will do the job. If you do UL with thermal-transfer, there are literally hundreds of options to choose from."
On the converting side, Bob Hakman, co-owner of Diversified Tape & Graphics, Buffalo Grove, Ill., predicted that many manufacturers will stop producing stock thermal-transfer labels as the margins are squeezed out of the products.