A printer that uses the same printing mechanism as a dye sublimation printer, but rather than laying down a transparent die, it melts dots of wax-based ink that adhere to almost any kind of stock, from ordinary paper to complex synthetics and film.
Thermal transfer printers produce shades of colors by placing color dots side-by-side (see dithering
). Printing faster than dye sublimation, consumables (ribbon and paper) are also less expensive, but do not produce photorealistic quality.
Some printers allow swapping of both thermal wax and dye sublimation ribbons so that the wax can be used for draft quality and the dye for final output. See dye sublimation printer
for more details on the printing process. See direct thermal printer
Thermal Transfer Printing
Monochrome ribbons contain a black ink panel the same size as each page being printed, while color ribbons contain panels for each color. When the paper and ribbon are passed by the printhead, the ribbon is heated, and dots of ink are transferred to the paper.
Wax-based ink will adhere to almost any kind of media, making it suitable for barcode and other kinds of labels. This monochrome Printronix printer makes labels on demand or turns out large batches when required. (Image courtesy of Printronix, Inc.)
FARGO came out with this dual-mode printer in the mid-1990s. Using a thermal wax ribbon for draft quality and dye sublimation ribbon for final output, the printer supported media up to 12x20". (Image courtesy of FARGO Electronics, Inc.)