In the world of sign production and printing, large-format printers are essential for creating the best products for your clients. When considering large-format print tasks, there are a variety of solutions. Among these are thermal solvent inkjet printers and thermal transfer ribbon printers. 

Both of these are excellent devices that can deliver finely detailed, large-scale graphics that can withstand even the harshest outdoor conditions. So, which is best suited for your business? In this post, we’ll dive into the pros and cons of inks and ribbons.

Ribbon Printer and Cartridge

Often referred to as ‘thermal transfer printers,’ ribbon printers operate by using a ribbon laden with ink, which is generally composed of a wax-like compound. The ink is heated until it liquefies, then it is transferred to the print medium. This mechanism facilitates the creation of superior-quality graphics that showcase uniform strength, durability, and color fidelity.

Printer ribbons are bought in individual colors, much like ink cartridges. They are inserted into the machine, and as the printer consumes the ribbon, it is wound onto a take-up spool for easy disposal when the ribbon is depleted.

In terms of toxicity, ribbon printers generally have the upper hand, as thermal solvent printers must vaporize a solvent that can be toxic. That being said, issues of toxicity have declined over time as the industry has begun to adopt environmentally-friendly solvents.

Thermal Solvent Printer and Cartridges

Thermal solvent printer cartridges use a unique ink that has been diluted with solvent to the ideal viscosity for these types of printers. As the print head passes over the vinyl or paper, it evaporates the solvent, leaving only the ink on the printing surface.

These printers are renowned for their superior speed and their ability to generate high-quality images resistant to weather-related damage and fading. Inkjets are able to print onto a broader array of materials than a ribbon printer, but whether or not that is of benefit to your company depends on the needs of your clients.  

Like their ribbon equivalents, ink cartridges are sold in individual colors, just as your home inkjet printer would use. Certain colors may deplete faster and need to be replenished sooner than the others, much like their ribbon counterparts. The cartridges must be discarded, although some manufacturers offer rebates on empty cartridges to help combat the global problem of electronic waste and plastic pollution.

The Right Printer for the Job

It's crucial to assess the requirements of your business and those of your clients to decide which machine is the correct fit for you. Both ribbon and ink cartridge printers are excellent machines at similar price points with marginally different capabilities.

When in doubt, consult experts from Airmark! Once you fully understand the best uses of each machine, you can make an informed decision that is right for your business and its needs, both now and in the future.