Since the invention of thermal printing in 1972, the industry has been relatively stagnant in developing performance enhancements that truly revolutionize the process of the technology. Until now…
Thermal transfer printing answered the limited durability issue of direct thermal printing in 1981. By introducing the use of ribbons, labels could withstand humidity and fading. More advanced thermal transfer formulations, such as full resin thermal transfer on polyester, allow image permanence the ability to last over 20 years. However, this technology comes at an incredible financial cost, a potential loss in productivity due to the need to change fussy ribbons and labels, and an inability to withstand certain solvents.
This is all poised to change, thanks to the development of Label-Lyte Platinum Thermal 75PT600, which fully capitalizes on changing the game of thermal printing. The technology fills the holes left by thermal transfer printing and simplifies the process while introducing astonishing performance enhancements – and all this produces cost savings opportunities for the end user.
Platinum Thermal is a white, surface-printable polyolefin film that can replace both coated direct thermal substrates and thermal transfer ribbons. The thermal film incorporates a black pigment into the film structure, underneath a white voided layer. When the film is printed, the black pigment layer is revealed by the collapse of the white layer, which protects the image from several forms of potential damage.
This groundbreaking technology reduces cost by eliminating the need for either a coating or ribbons. This allows for a seamless printing process and waste reduction otherwise caused by ribbon-related problems, changeover and disposal. Eliminating abrasive DT coatings allows Platinum Thermal to extend printer life while also delivering higher quality image resolution.
Platinum Thermal is a new imaging technology with a new standard of durability. The film is heat resistant up to 130˚ C/266˚ F. Water and water-based solvents have no effects on the film, even when boiled indefinitely. Common freezing provokes no change. Chemical tests show a unique reaction of the film to withstand permanent imaging of the label. After applying solvents to the label, there is migration into the white layer, thereby blocking the refraction of light and revealing more of the black pigmented layer underneath. However, unlike direct thermal and thermal transfer printing, the chemicals evaporate from the film, returning to the original intended image with no damage.
The film was printed on a thermal printer and then evaluated in weather tests involving exposure to various levels of UV, moisture and heat. Early results estimate Platinum Thermal to have an outdoor lifespan of at least 18 months, with an expanded outdoor testing program currently in progress. Additionally, the labels are expected to last over 50 years in indoor, archivable applications.
With added corona treatment during lamination or preprint, the film is compatible with a range of printing systems including standard thermal or barcode printers, water-based flexographic, UV flexographic, letterpress and screen and solvent rotogravure. It handles a wide range of ink systems, including UV- and water-based technologies. Its reverse surface easily accommodates pressure-sensitive adhesive. Platinum Thermal is designed for use in many durable, on-demand labeling applications including healthcare, agriculture/livestock and industrial/logistics.
Thermal printing was invented in 1972 and this recent innovation is poised to change this technology – and how labels are processed – going forward.