…And How to Get Better Results

Businesses are looking for ways to cut costs and boost efficiency as the new year begins, especially as labor and operating expenses are rising. But one area that they often overlook when slashing costs is their label printing. 

Printing labels can seem like a simple proposition. Most businesses often choose to use the most affordable option they can find, especially considering that the latter is a reoccurring expense that will eventually surpass the cost of printers.  

But this short-term cost-saving strategy almost always creates much larger long-term costs. Not all labels are made equal: There are thousands of labeling options with sizes, adhesives and materials that fit a vast range of environments.  

In this blog, we will cover the importance of choosing the right labels, supplies and equipment, and the impact they make on your efficiency and bottom line. 

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The Importance of Carefully Selecting Your Supplies

Using the wrong labels and supplies for your use case can cause labels to fall off, fade, or get scratched and smudged in your operating environment.  

Low-end supplies are typically made with more abrasive materials that cause premature printhead wear, and cheaper ribbons, supplies and hardware tend to output inconsistent, often poor image quality. Re-printing and using darker colors cause damaging buildup on your printheads.  

As a leading supplier of printing and labeling solutions for over 40 years, AB&R has seen many of these issues first-hand. We have helped thousands of companies solve printing and labeling issues that were ultimately caused by using the wrong label.  These solutions helped them slash costs in the long run.  

Our label solutions begin with a questionnaire that homes in on your business’s unique needs, such as the surface the label will be affixed to, the intended use case, and more.   

This approach prevents print quality, label adhesion, and durability issues that interrupt your processes, all while minimizing the amount of printer servicing and repair you need to do.  

The first step to improving your label printing performance and reducing costs is to research your printer options and how they can affect your final One way to start seeing the bigger picture and taking steps to improve your label printing costs and performance is to make sure you understand printer types, the importance of printer quality, and how these factors work together to affect your results. 

The Importance of Printer Type and Quality 

Direct Thermal vs. Thermal Transfer Printers 

Direct thermal printers are designed for labeling applications that require a shorter lifespan, such as printing labels for office use or shipping. They don’t use ink, toner, or ribbon: Instead, they create the image directly on a paper label, which means the image has limited durability. 

However, if you need a long-lasting, durable label image and protection against extreme temperatures, abrasion, moisture, or chemicals, then you need to use a thermal transfer printer. 

Thermal Transfer printers use the thermal printhead to apply the heat to an ink ribbon. This bonds ink onto the label, creating a durable label image. 

Combined with specialized label materials and adhesives, this process ensures your labels remain readable, scannable, and securely adhered, even if they’re exposed to extreme conditions. Your labels won’t fade or fall off, and you won’t waste time reprinting labels or having to track down assets that turn up missing because of a compromised label. 

Once we’ve identified which printer option works best for you, we will need to choose a suitable label and match it with the correct thermal transfer ribbon. Here’s a quick look at thermal transfer ribbons and some key application factors to consider when choosing a label. 

RELATED: Direct Thermal Printer or Thermal Transfer Printer

Thermal Transfer Ribbons

Thermal transfer ribbons are made with specialized ink formulations designed to match specific label materials and provide the best printing quality and durability. 

When specifying ribbons, we work closely with our partners at Zebra, who provide over 5,000 combinations of ribbons and matching label supplies to deliver outstanding results for virtually any use case. Here’s a quick overview of the ribbon types we offer: 

Wax Ribbons are for applications with little to no exposure to weak chemicals and/or moderate abrasion. 

Wax/Resin Ribbons are for moderate chemical exposure and/or exposure to moderate abrasion, or where UL/cUL approval is required. 

Resin Ribbons are for moderate chemical exposure and/or exposure to excessive abrasion, and UL/cUL approval. 

Application Factors 

Label Lifespan  

A direct thermal paper label will likely meet your needs if your product has a short shelf life and doesn’t need resistance to chemicals, moisture, and abrasion. Otherwise, you will need a thermal transfer label, and we can help you find the right fit from hundreds of Zebra options. 


Different materials and adhesives are required to affix labels to curved or unusual surfaces, so it is important to consider the surface you are labeling when exploring your options.  

Extreme Temperatures 

First, it’s important to understand the difference between application temperature and service temperature. Application temperature is the temp at which you apply your label. Service temperature is the temp range when your label is in use. 

Standard label materials perform well when the application temperature is a minimum of 25°F, and service temperature ranges from -65°F to 200°F. If you’re labeling outside these ranges, you need to use thermal transfer printing and labels, and you probably need a specialty adhesive. 

Abrasion Resistance

If your label needs resistance to rubbing or scratching, you’ll want to use a ribbon with higher resin content. 

Chemical and Moisture Resistance 

If your label will be exposed to moderate chemicals, including water, use thermal transfer printing and labels. In the case of harsh and extreme chemicals, a high-durability resin ribbon is recommended to ensure print durability. 

Indoor/Outdoor Use

It’s best to use a thermal transfer synthetic label if your label will be regularly exposed to the outdoors. This is particularly important if your label will be exposed to sun, rain or snow. 

Print Speed, Darkness and Dots Per Inch (DPI)

Certain label materials and ribbons cause printing to be slower or faster, and some combinations require higher print darkness and/or higher dots per inch. For proper printing, synthetic labels may also be needed. 

Getting Expert Help to Lower Your Labeling Costs and Improve Results  

As you’re probably realizing from these tips, a lot goes into choosing the right combination of certified supplies. But the good news is that you don’t need to find it alone. AB&R’s label specialists have decades of experience and can guide you to the right label for your environment, so you can focus on running your business.  

The right barcode printer and label combination sets you up for success. That’s why AB&R trusts Zebra Technologies’ full suite of printing solutions to deliver the perfect solution to print, apply, scan and track with confidence. 

Contact us today for a review of your label system. Our team will evaluate your current system and identify ways to improve your printing processes.  




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