When Transfer Calls
With higher quality, enhanced software and lower prices, suppliers see simplified selection and usage for thermal transfer printers.
By Susan Friedman
Converters in the market for a thermal transfer printer should first consider how others in the field have put them to work.
Thermal transfer printers' flexibility for on-demand, short runs has led some label converters to install them "as a service bureau capability," comments Gene Korzeniewski, manager, product development, Avery Dennison Printer Systems.
Short-run, variable information jobs remain an applications cornerstone. "Because of its high per-label cost, thermal transfer is not the best choice for high-volume batch printing," affirms Reggie Twigg, marketing communications specialist, Printronix.
It is the industrial nature of this variable information printing that has kept some converter usage at bay. Tom Pugh, VP, Bell-Mark, says converters will use thermal transfer printers to add sequential codes, date codes or other variable data on preprinted labels or packages for "niche-oriented reasons," but calls these instances "spotty situations."
Other thermal transfer printer functions, such as expiration date and lot number coding, are "not something converters would typically take advantage of," elaborates Joely Fanning, product manager, Markem Corp. She, instead, sees converters "as companies that supply preprinted film or cartons to the industries thermal transfer vendors serve."
Efforts to take thermal transfer printers beyond industrial markets should intensify in the next six to 12 months, says Ann Marie Cook, director of marketing, Weber Marking Systems. "Increased modularity and Windows 95 drivers should boost appeal in target markets, such as medical and pharmaceutical labels."
Thermal transfer printer prices continue to fall, due to a more crowded marketplace and a focus on economy models. John Schuck, director of sales and marketing, Imtec, says a key cost-reduction driver is competition. "As more suppliers enter the thermal transfer market, the shifting demand and market forces will result in lower-cost printer alternatives for more simplified applications," he states, adding that lower prices have extended to multi-color stand-alone printers. "The only limitation is color matching," he adds.