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Printer Ribbons: Introduction & Significance

Printer ribbons perform functions similar to the function of an ink in conventional printing. Printer ribbons are generally used in thermal transfer printing technology. In thermal transfer printing technology, a multi-layered ribbon in rolled form, is placed in-between a printhead and a substrate or print media. Strutually a printer ribbon is made of many layers. The top layer is a transparent film, the subsequent layers are inks and on the opposite side of the ribbon a protective layer known as blackcoating is applied. During thermal transfer printing process, heat from a printhead is applied to the backside of a printer ribbon i.e the blackcoating surface, the wax or resin that is coated on front side of the ribbon melts and transfers the ink elements from front side of the ribbon to a substrate or print media. There are various types of print media such as textile materials, cards, synthetics, paper among other materials. A printer ribbon is used for marking price of a product, expiry dates, composition of a product, batch number and other relevant product information.

Printer ribbons are important as they are used in all industries where marking and labelling is requied. Without good quality print on a labels, it is difficult to trace a product along its life cycle. The lable of a product is the only link among a manufacturer, distributor, dealer, retail and finally end-users. Among various printing process, thermal transfer printing is a prefered method for printing labels in industry. The quality of a label depends on printer, print media and last but not the least on the type of printer ribbons we choose.


Global Printer Ribbons Market: Segmentation

The global printer ribbons market has been segmented as follows –

On the basis of material type, the global Printer Ribbons market has been segmented as follows –

  • Full Wax Ribbons
  • Wax-Resin Ribbons
  • Full Resin Ribbons

On the basis of color, the global printer ribbons market has been segmented as follows –

  • Color Ribbons
  • Monochrome Ribbons

On the basis of type, the global printer ribbons market has been segmented as follows –

  • Coated Side In (CSI)
  • Coated Side Out (CSO)

On the basis of end-use industry, the global printer ribbons market has been segmented as follows –

  • Corporate
  • Retail
  • Warehousing & Shipping
  • Healthcare
  • Automotive
  • Others

In full wax printer ribbon, the ribbon is coated with an ink made of wax which has a low melting point. This is the most common and widely available printer ribbons in the world. These ribbons are also known as resin-enhanced wax thermal transfer ribbons. Wax ribbons are generally used in general printing, retail labeling and others. In full resin ribbons, the ribbons are coated with pure resin which has a high melting point. Full resin printer ribbons dissolve in a print media and the final printout is very durable in nature. They are generally used in apparel and textile labelling, durable products labelling among others. Among printer ribbons, full resin printer ribbons are most expensive. The wax-resin ribbons are coated with a mixture of wax and resin and have a melting point in between full resin and full wax printer ribbons. They are generally used in automotive labeling, export-import industry among others. Printing of full wax printer ribbons are less durable than full resin printer ribbons.

On the basis of type, printer ribbons are classified as coated side in (CSI) and coated side out (CSO). CSO means that the printer ribbon comes out of a roll in clockwise direction during printing. In CSO, the wax or resin coated layer of ribbon faces outside of the roll. CSI means that a printer ribbon comes out of a roll in anti-clockwise direction during printing. In CSI, the wax or resin layer faces the inside of a roll. CSI or CSO depends on how the ribbon comes out from the roll. It is important how the printer ribbon is rolled out as wrong direction will damage the printhead.

Global Printer Ribbons Market: Key Players

The major firms operating in the global printer ribbons market are segmented into three tiers based on their revenue

  • Tier 1
    • Sato Holdings Corporation
    • Zebra Technologies
    • TE Connectivity
    • Evolis
    • Honeywell International Inc.
    • Seiko Epson Corporation
    • Toshiba Corporation
    • Dowdupont Inc.
    • Brady Corporation
    • Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. (DNP)
  • Tier 2
    • Essentra Security
    • cab Produkttechnik GmbH & Co. KG
    • Eurohill Labels Ltd
    • Omnimetric Technologies Sdn Bhd
    • Shanghai Xinfan Industrial Corporation
    • Thermal Transfer Solutions Ltd
    • Armor SAS
  • Tier 3
    • Great Eastern Idtech Pvt. Ltd.

Key developments & Trends

  • In April 2018, Zebra Technologies Corporation based in the U.S. launched new generation, compact card printers ZC100 and ZC300 series along with a printer software CardStudio 2.0 software. The ZC350 card printer is a premium product of ZC300 series that uses three printer ribbons. Zebra Technologies offers print ribbons which have an in-built smart chips. That helps the printer ribbons to communicate with a device and also helps in determining the type and quantity of print media present in a printer. The ZC100 and ZC300 series printers have color LCDs and support up-to 10 languages
  • In March 2018, the firm launched thermal transfer and direct thermal desktop printers ZD420-HC and ZD620-HC for healthcare industry. These printer use software suit Print DNA. These desktop thermal transfer printers are compatible with healthcare power regulations from International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)            

The road ahead

Printer ribbons market is anticipated to grow due to rise in retail industry during the near five years. As per survey by Zebra Technologies, the global retail industry is anticipated to grow 3.0% annually till 2021. Retail markets in North America, Europe and Middle East & Africa are also anticipated to grow by 3.0% annually in future. E-commerce industry is anticipated to rise to US$ 1.5 trillion by 2021. Information Technology (IT) spend among retailers are also anticipated to rise. Thus with expected rise in retail, e-commerce and other sectors more printing and barcodes will be required, which will lead to the rise in thermal transfer printers and subsequently thermal transfer printer ribbons. Retail industry in North America, Europe and MEA are anticipated to rise to US$ 5.5 trillion by 2023.

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Printer Ribbons Market

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