Terminology / Abbreviations

- The RT number is our ribbon grade, you can find the comprehensive list of them here.

- The first and second three digit numbers are the width in millimetres and the length in metres of the ribbon  respectively

- The next two letters are either IW or OW, which is the winding of the ribbon (see the next question for more).

- The final letter is to say the material of the core used to wrap the ribbon (please see the question after next for more).

You may also know this as CSO (coated side in) / CSI (coated side out) or Face In / Face Out.

IW stands for inside wound, OW is outside wound. This wording refers to the side of the ribbon that is coated with the ink that is transferred onto your substrate during the printing process. An inside wound ribbon has ink facing on the inside of your ribbon when it's wound onto a core - and the opposite can be said for an outside wound ribbon.

Different printer models require one of the two windings - although if you don't know this, you can let our ribbon selector guide you to find what ribbons are compatible with your printer.

When speaking out the core found on the inside of a ribbon, the person is refering to the centre material used to wrap the ribbon around.

A core can be one of a few sizes, depending on your printer. The material of the core used also partially depends on your printer - larger printers with larger roll sizes or faster printing printers that use near edge technology often require a plastic core because more force is put onto the core during the printing process when the ribbon is unravelled. This pressure can simply not be undertaken by a card core in most circumstances and can become damage.

A weaker, and less expensive cardboard core can be used in most situations when this extra strength isn't require.

If you don't know what core you need, use our ribbon selector to help guide you to making the right choice in picking your ribbons.

We supply multiple ribbon grades to suit a vast range of applications on many substrates in a combination of printers. Our comprehensive list of grades can be found here and all vary in their uses and performance properties. This makes them suited for specific printer models and substrates. If you don't know what grade to choose, or want to make sure you have chosen the correct one, you can use our ribbon selector to guide you towards the best print possible.

These are the three types of ribbon you can find in the thermal transfer market.

Wax is generally regarded as the most cost-effective of the ribbons and is ideal for general labelling applications.

Resin ribbons are some of the best you can get in terms of durability in chemical and scratch resistance, however these formulations aren't suitable for every substrate.

Wax/Resin are combination ribbons, they combine their properties to create a more cost-effective ribbon while maintaining the great properties of resin ribbons. These formulas are often suited for a wide range of printing substrates too.

These are the two types of technology found within a thermal transfer printer.

Flat head printers are generally considered the slower of the two printing methods but can print at higher resolutions (up to 600 dpi with some printers) because of this. The heating element is in contact with the substrate for an extended period of time, and so more cost-effective ribbons can be used with these types of printers.

Near Edge is a considerably faster printing technology but can only print at a resolution of up to 300 dpi. This type of printhead doesn't actually touch anything during the printing process, adding the benefit of not having to adjust your printhead for different size substrates - but because of the lack of contact, these printers require a more specialised ribbon that can transfer ink more quickly onto the substrate

General Questions

Thermal transfer ribbon may seem confusing at first, and it is. There's many brands, formulations and sizes of ribbon on the market and it may seem more confusing than ever to find what you need for a such a simple task. To help combat this, we sell our ribbons with this confusion in mind - which is why we have multiple ways of helping you choose your ribbon.

Option 1 - If you already have a branded ribbon but want a cheaper equivalent, you can use our search bar at the top of your page to search with your brands part number to find our exact equivalent.

Option 2 - If you don't know your ribbons part number, are unhappy with the prints you are getting with your current ribbon, or just require a new ribbon, then use our ribbon selector. Anyone can use this to filter our ribbon range to be more specific to you. Look below for the "Rotech Ribbon Selector" section of this FAQ for more questions and answers.

This is a difficult answer to find for many new thermal transfer users - this can depend on the thickness of your ribbon and the model of your printer. Although generally ribbons are the similar size, some suppliers, including us, offer thinner ribbons that mean you can fit longer rolls on your printer that allows you to print uninterrupted for longer. 

If you're not sure what ribbon size is right for you, or just want some reassurance that you've picked the correct ribbon - use our ribbon selector. By doing this, you'll only find ribbons that are supported by your specific printer model (this takes into account way more than just your max length, too)

You have to take into account your printer size when choosing a ribbon width, as printer models can only physically handle widths up to a certain size. But once you this, we recommend a ribbon that is at least 4mm larger than the substrate your're printing onto. Although this may seem like an unnecessary waste - most businesses recommend this because of the consequences if you have a ribbon that's even slightly too small for your substrate - the printhead will quickly become damaged if it comes into direct contact with your substrate and not a clean, dirt-free ribbon. This can lead to unwelcome costs and inevitably delays in production while the printhead is being changed.

You can request a sample completely FREE and you can expect next day delivery before 2pm. To do this, simply find the ribbon you want to sample - and then copy our product title or sku and head to the "Top Marks" page on our store. From here you can fill out a quick form with your delivery address details along with the ribbon you require. We have hundreds of samples to choose from in all of our grades, but they won't always be the exact width you request. Most of our samples are supplied in 10 meter rolls.

You may find some brands of ribbon that only supply a limited range of grade. At Rotech, we've tailor picked each of the grades to cover over 9% of all thermal transfer applications as best they can with no compromises to quality - this meant we had to have a bigger range of ribbon grades to suit smaller applications

Rotech Ribbon Selector

We consider our ribbon selector game-changing with the data it manages to collect in order to give you the ribbon you require for perfect printing results.

We've created the ribbon selector to take away from the manual process of picking and choosing the ribbon for you, with this selector you can filter ribbons by the printer you're using and the substrate you want to print onto. You can pick and choose whether you answer, but for the best results we recommend answering every question so that you can be sure your ribbon will not only work in your application, but give you the great printing results you desire.

We can boast that our ribbon selector is more complex than anything else on the market - it accounts for 10's of factors when you answer a few questions about your application in order to show you the ribbons that will be best for you.

Some of the information it collects includes:

- Printing technology (flat head / near edge)

- Ribbon winding

- Printer's max speed

- Printer's size

- What the printer model is made to print onto

- The core size required

- The max ribbon width

Once you select your substrate, the ribbon selector will then only show the results that suit the above as well as the specification you require for your ribbon - this all gaurantees that when you order with us, you can feel confident that your prints will be the best they can be.

You definitely can. We've meticulously ensured that when using our ribbon selector, you will ONLY find results that are suitable for you. This is because your custom results take into account more details about your printer and application than you can remember yourself (see question above).

Original Ribbons

Not at all - we supply ribbon that between them have been tested to work with over 30 brands and 100's of models of thermal transfer printers.

Our ribbons are EQUIVALENT to the big name brands such as Zebra, Markem or Toshiba - the only difference is our price. 

If you want to find our ribbon that is equivalent to your branded ribbon, simply search your part number in our search bar and our ribbon will appear.

Although we're not able to say we've tested ALL of our ribbons on EVERY printer brand and model, the technology is the same between some models and the ones we have tested, we have tested vigorously (we test our ribbons at variable print speeds, print quality, temperatures and other variables all the same as any branded ribbon would).

Using our ribbon selector you can be sure that any ribbon it suggests will work with your printer model.

We've introduced multiple ways to help you choose which ribbon is best for you.

Option 1 - If you know your ribbons product code you can search this within our search bar at the top of your screen and our Rotech Equivalent will appear. This is the right route for someone that's happy with their current prints but want to lower costs.

Option 2 - Use our ribbon selector. You can find out more about that above in the section labelled "Rotech Ribbon Selector". This choice would be suitable for those that don't currently have a ribbon for their application, or are looking for a better print than what they currently have.

Printhead Maintenance

The cause of this may be due to the print speed being too slow, or the darkness/heat settings being too high. Please see your printer's user manual for how to adjust these settings, alternatively you can call us on 01707 393700

You may want to increase your heat settings, or slow the printing speed. Please see your printer's user manual for how to adjust these settings, alternatively you can call us on 01707 393700

If you notice this, it may be due to a dusty roller. Please see your printer's user manual for how to adjust these settings, alternatively you can call us on 01707 393700

Although we always recommend seeing your printer's user manual for a precise step-by-step guide on caring for your thermal transfer printer, there's one thing we can recommend to anyone. Versawipes are a recommended purchase with any ribbon - these can be used to clean the printhead (recommended once per day) to wipe away excess material or dust that may collect on the printhead from day to day use. This helps to maximise your printhead's life.

Try wiping your printhead, but it may be time to replace it. We recommend checking the manufacturers lifetime estimates for a printhead as being a physical part that is in contact with moving surfaces, it is prone to wear-and-tear.

This is most likely due to your ribbon not being loaded properly - most printers have pressure adjustment rods on the printhead housing - uneven spacing or pressume from the rods can create creases in your ribbon. We recommend seeing our videos on how to load your thermal ribbon into your printer or see your manufacturers user manual for an in-depth explanation on the process for your precise printer model. If the issue persists, you can call us on 01707 393700 with your query

Your printhead requires some regular maintenance - if you fail to clean your printhead, debris hardens and bakes into the printhead element over time - blocking heat and compromising print quality. We also recommend wiping platen rollers and label sensors intermittently to get the most our of your printer.

For all of the above, we recommend buying versawipes - specially designed alcohol wipes for use on thermal transfer printer components.

We strongly recommend using versawipes to clean your printhead and surrounding components. You can watch this video on how to do it.

This prevents unnecessary cost of premature printhead failure. We recommend doing this at least once a day - the more you clean it, the longer it will last.

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+44 1707 393 700

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sales@rotechmachines.com