Guide to Thermal Label Printer Consumables: Thermal Label, Ribbon, Print Head, and Cleaning Supplies

2023-04-03 13:49

With the rapid development of the e-commerce and logistics industries, label printers have become important office equipment. Among them, thermal label printers are popular due to their ease of use, fast speed, and good printing results. However, the consumables used in thermal label printers also require attention. This article will introduce common supplies for thermal label printers and their usage methods.

Image of HPRT LPQ80 Thermal Label Printer

Thermal label

In everyday life, what we often refer to as thermal labels are actually a type of label used specifically for direct thermal printers. It is a special type of label that can print text, images, and other content through the heating of the thermal print head.

Compared with ordinary labels, the surface of thermal label has an additional thin coating containing special chemicals called leuco dyes. Once exposed to the right conditions, these chemicals react to produce a substance that absorbs visible light, allowing us to see colors. Thermal labels has the advantages of fast printing speed and good print quality but is prone to fading and not suitable for long-term storage.

Image of Shipping Label

Common thermal labels available in the market can be classified into ordinary thermal labels and three-proof thermal labels based on their functionality. Three-proof thermal labels have an additional protective layer on the thermal imaging layer, providing better water resistance, oil resistance, and abrasion resistance, mainly used for high-end markets.

In comparison, the label types used by thermal transfer label printers are much more diverse, such as self-adhesive labels, PET labels, and coated paper labels.

When choosing thermal paper, select the appropriate size to match the printer’s specifications. In addition, please consider factors such as the material, viscosity, and anti-counterfeiting properties of the thermal paper according to usage requirements.


The ribbon is an indispensable consumable in thermal transfer label printers. Its structure can be simply understood as a PET film coated with meltable ink on one side and a protective layer called back coating on the other. When regular labels passes through the heated print head, the ink layer of the ribbon is transferred to the label under the heat and pressure from the print head, displaying the content to be printed.

Image of Ribbon

Ribbons come in various colors, such as black, red, and blue. They can be roughly divided into wax-based ribbons, resin ribbons, and mixed-based ribbons according to material type. Click here for more detailed information on ribbon types.

When choosing a ribbon, be sure to consider the ribbon size, material, and requirements of the printed label. For example, if you need to print durable labels, choose resin ribbons.

Thermal print head

The thermal print head is one of the essential components of a thermal label printer. Its function is to print images, text, and other content on thermal labels by heating. The thermal print head wears down as labels are printed, so it needs to be replaced periodically.

The life of the print head depends on factors such as usage frequency, print quality, and maintenance. Generally, the life of the print head ranges from several hundred thousand to several million labels. Regularly replacing the print head ensures print quality, printer life, and reduces maintenance costs.

Cleaning cards & cleaning pens

Cleaning cards are specialized cleaning supplies, typically card-sized and made of special materials that clean print heads and rollers, effectively removing dust, oil, and other impurities on the print head surface, maintaining print quality.

Similarly, cleaning pens also have a cleaning function. This small pen-shaped tool, specifically designed for cleaning print heads, is usually made of soft cotton or sponge material, allowing users to clean the print head surface more precisely. Especially for more complex print head structures, cleaning pens can better clean hard-to-reach areas.


In general, it is recommended to renew a cleaning card after every ribbon change or every one thousand labels printed, in order to ensure print quality and extend the printer’s lifespan.

The quality and proper use of these consumables play a crucial role in the printing results and the lifetime of the printer. Therefore, we need to carefully select and correctly use these materials when purchasing and using them. Additionally, regular cleaning of the print head and rollers is another vital measure to maintain the thermal label printer’s stability and service life.

HPRT has a complete portfolio of thermal label printers, from 2-inch to 6-inch, our printers can be used for personal, commercial, and industrial scenarios. Contact us if you’re looking for a thermal label printer supplier.

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