So, you just bought your first thermal transfer printer and now you have to find the perfect label for your printing application.
Thermal printers are great for printing shipping labels, warehouse rack labels, barcode labels, asset labels and product identification labels. Choosing the right label material can be one of the most important decisions you make. If you are printing shipping labels or barcode identification labels for retail, the label does not have that long of a shelf life. A simple thermal transfer label and wax ribbon combo will work just fine or even a direct thermal. Keep in mind that direct thermal labels are heat sensitive and can fade and blacken over time. Direct thermal tends to be more expensive than thermal transfer labels, but you don't have to change out a ribbon or factor in that cost.
Perhaps you will need to print location or rack labels for your warehouse or maybe a shipping label that will be on a product outside. Now you are faced with a dilemna of finding a low cost label material that will give you barcode smudge resistance and resistance to water. Polyester labels can be very expensive and overkill for this application. Consider using a poly blend material like a polyetholene, polyolephin or a Kimdura label stock. These materials are more expensive than paper but will not break the bank for your application. Polyester labels are ideal for exposure to chemicals and high temperatures. They are also great for holding up to the elements. Many asset labels are printed in polyester because you want them to be around for the life of the product. If you still need more durability, consider anodized aluminum labels or tags for your application. These have the image preprinted on them and baked into the material. You will pay a bundle for these, but if it's going to last forever, it's worth the investment.
Brad Hole is President of Eversio Technologies http://www.eversio.com; a Seattle based business specializing in barcode hardware, software and labels.