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Print Methods and Media - Zebra Technologies

Last Updated: 4/1/2014

Thermal-based technology is optimal for mobile printing because of the high print quality output, media flexibility and the low-maintenance, durable nature of the equipment. Impact printers break more easily in dynamic and industrial environments, often lack the print quality to produce scannable barcodes, and contain no optimizations for adhesive label media.

There are two thermal printing methods, direct thermal and thermal transfer. Each method uses a thermal printhead that applies heat to the surface undergoing marking. Thermal transfer printing heats a ribbon to melt durable, long-lasting images onto a wide variety of materials. Direct thermal printing does not use a ribbon and instead creates the image directly on the chemically treated label material. Direct thermal media is more sensitive to light, heat and abrasion, which reduces the overall label life.

Direct thermal is the dominant method used in mobile printing because the simplicity and convenience of the technology are true advantages in mobile applications. Additionally, the label, receipt or document printed from a mobile printer typically has a relatively short life, again, proving the need for direct thermal over thermal transfer. However, in applications where a longer-lasting label or more durable label material is needed, Zebra offers the only thermal transfer mobile printer on the market, the P4T.

Direct Thermal

Direct thermal printers can satisfy most mobile application needs. Top-coated media resists ultraviolet light and remains readable for years, eliminating the problem of receipts that fade and curl after a few days.

Many types of liner-less media are also available, which eliminate the waste and disposal problems associated with peel-away liners used with adhesive labels.

Thermal Transfer

Thermal label printers are ideal for barcode printing because they produce accurate, high-quality images with excellent edge definition. Thermal printers are engineered to print within tight tolerances and to produce the exact bar widths that successful barcode printing and scanning require. The Zebra P4T/RP4T printer takes thermal transfer technology to the next level by delivering superior image durability (barcodes/text/graphics), optional RFID and advanced wireless connectivity options. Thermal media is also available to resist oil, water, blood, alcohol and common industrial solvents.

Typical mobile printers accept a variety of label, tag, ticket and other media for producing durable receipts, invoices, return labels, inspection labels and other labels and documents. Users can customize blank label, tag and receipt stock to include color, graphics and company logos, with the variable text and barcode printed on-demand from the mobile printer. While the majority of route accounting customers accept 4-inch-wide delivery confirmation receipts, mobile printers can print variable information like invoice amounts or delivery contents on labels that are applied to forms. This satisfies customer desires to keep using familiar forms, while eliminating handwriting and manual recording.


We are located in Orange, California (Southern California) and strategically located to serve Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Diego Counties.

This page last updated on 9/14/2019 12:16:49 PM