How to choose the right ink ribbon for quality labeling?

ink ribbon

Choosing to print in-house saves a considerable amount of time and can, in some cases, be an economic gain. Printing labels with variable information within a company is extremely important, especially for barcode labels that need to be readable by scanners and have a long shelf life. 

But this implies certain risks of misprints caused by many printing components that can have big consequences. In particular, when printing barcodes where a bad print will lead to an inability to read and track the product. To avoid the risks, you need to understand the printing components (label printer, ink ribbons and label rolls) and choose them carefully.

SBE is here to guide you in your choice of ink ribbons. 

What is a ribbon ? 

The thermal transfer ink ribbon, also called TTh ribbon or ribbon, is placed inside the printer and allows monochrome printing of labels with variables with any type of thermal transfer printer only. The ribbon is essential for a thermal transfer printer because it contains the dry ink which will be deposited on your label.

However, for direct transfer printing technology, this is different. The printers and labels do not use ink, the specific paper will react with the thermal head and will blacken, without ink. The paper for this technology is similar to receipt paper, if the paper is heated it will turn black. This method is suitable for short term labels such as shipping labels. 

How to choose the quality of the ink ribbon ? 

There are several qualities of ribbon which depend only on the support of the impression. Indeed, the material of the label that will support the printing will guide the choice of the ribbon quality. 

The ink ribbon offers several qualities, however, it will always be monochrome. Most of the ribbons used are black but it is possible to buy blue, yellow, red ribbons... 

There are 4 main qualities of ribbons

  • Resin ribbon: for synthetic and plastic supports such as polyester, polypropylene... Its printing allows the ink to resist in wet outdoor environments and it resists to some chemicals (such as alcohol, gasoline, detergents, etc.) as well as to rubbing and mechanical wear. 

This grade of tape is best suited for labels with a longer shelf life or that need to withstand more severe use.

  • Superior Resin Ribbon: Similar to resin ribbons but provides better adhesion to synthetic labels for longer life
  • Wax Ribbon: Quality for vellum or coated paper labels. This is a very useful option for price and retail labels as it is very economical and provides good longevity under conventional conditions, i.e. no humidity, temperature change and UV. 
  • Wax/Resin Ribbon: suitable for glossy and satin paper substrates that require better adhesion of ink to paper than just wax. It is very resistant to rubbing, UV and humidity and is often used in laboratories and hospitals for labeling bottles.  

How to choose the right ink ribbon for your label and printer ? 

Printer manufacturers will always recommend you to use their ink ribbons to maximize the print quality. But it is not impossible to use consumables from other manufacturers. In any case, you must be very careful to choose the ribbon so that it is compatible with the printer used! 

The size of the ink ribbon will depend on 4 technical characteristics

- The printing width on your label: it is recommended to choose ink ribbons wider than the label to be printed. 

- The length of the ribbon: printers will limit the maximum length of the ribbon because the space dedicated to the ribbon in the printer varies according to the models.

- The ribbon winding: there are two types of inking families: internal or external inking. Most label printers produced today use internal inking ribbons. Generally, the inking will depend on the size of the core. 

- The size of the core: the ink ribbon core must fit the diameter of the printer and there are only two ribbon diameters either 1 inch (25.4mm) or ½ inch (12.7mm).

Ribbon compatibility with our printers

SBE Direct offers a wide variety of ink ribbons in different sizes, cores, inks and qualities. If you can't find the ribbon you need, don't hesitate to contact us

Here is a summary of the black ink ribbons we offer: 

RibbonDiameter of the chuckSizeQualityInking
Ink Ribbon Cab (box of 10 ribbons) 25,4mm 25mm x 360m Superior Resin in
25,4mm 55mm x 360m Resin or Superior Resin in
25,4mm 76mm x 360m Wax-resin in
25,4mm 90mm x 360m Wax-resin ou Résine in
25,4mm 110mm x 360m Superior Resin in
25,4mm 114mm x 360m Wax-resin or Resin in
Ink Ribbon Sato (box of 25 ribbons) 12,7mm 55mm x 100m Wax-resin or Resin out
25,4mm 65mm x 210m Resin in
25,4mm 65mm x 300m Wax-resin or Resin in
12,7mm 83mm x 100m Wax-resin or Resin in
25,4mm 84mm x 210m Resin in
25,4mm 84mm x 300m Wax-resin in
25,4mm 110mm x 210m Wax-resin in
25,4mm 110mm x 300m Resin in
Ink Ribbon (1 unit) 25,4mm 110mm x 210m Resin in

To better understand which ribbon to choose for your SATO or CAB printer, here is a table showing the compatibility between ribbon and printer: 

Ink Ribbon Cab (boîte de 10 rubans) 25mm x 360m X X X X X
55mm x 360m X X X X X
76mm x 360m X X X X
90mm x 360m X X X X
110mm x 360m X X X X
114mm x 360m X X X X
Ink Ribbon Sato (boîte de 25 rubans) 55mm x 100m X X X
65mm x 210m X X X X X X
65mm x 300m X X X X X X
83mm x 100m X X X
84mm x 210m X X X X X
84mm x 300m X X X X X
110mm x 210m X X X X X
110mm x 300m X X X X X
Ink Ribbon (1 unit) 110mm x 210m X X X X X

Discover our article "How to choose the best printer?" and our article that will help you choose your label rolls.

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