Thermal Inkjet TIJ Printer vs. Print and Apply Labeler

Print and apply labelers mark and apply labels, containing text, barcodes, variable/dynamic data, and graphics onto products or packaging. Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) printers offer the same capabilities but at a fraction of the cost and with much less hassle.

The choice of selecting a thermal inkjet printing over a labeling solution eliminates the need for costly consumables and can result in reducing your overall cost by 50 to 75%.

In this article, we cover the key areas where using a Thermal Inkjet Printer will be to your advantage in comparison to a Print and Apply Label machine.

Print and Apply Label Machines

These systems print using a thermal transfer ribbon mechanism. As the transfer ribbon passes under the thermal print head, the heat emitted melts the wax-based ink in the ribbon onto the label, resulting in the print. Subsequently, using a pneumatic or electric cylinder with a specially designed label pad, the labelers applies the label to the packaging or product surface using either a blow, tamp, tamp-blow, or wipe method.

Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) Printers

TIJ printers on the hand, print directly onto the substrate, have no moving parts, require no maintenance, operate at higher speeds, and cost substantially less than print and apply labelers.
Although TIJs cannot always replace labelers, but for many applications Thermal Inkjet Printers can be a suitable and money-saving replacement for label printers.

So what are the factors that give Thermal Inkjet Printers an edge of Print and Apply labelers?

Capital Cost

Thermal Inkjet TIJ Printer cost

The cost of print and apply label machines vary depending on features and manufacturer. But even on the low end of this scale, the systems are generally much pricier than high performing TIJ printers.

Also, many print-and-apply label applications require the adhesion of more than 1 label to a box, usually on adjacent or opposite sides. Thus, to do this requires either extra-label printer(s) or a conveyor system to rotate the box. So, achieving this configuration requires substantially higher capital expenditure than what would be needed for a Dual Head Thermal Inkjet Printer.

Print Speed

Thermal Inkjet Printer Speed

A print-and-apply label printer performs 2 tasks; label printing and its subsequent application to the box. In comparison, by printing directly on to the packaging, a Thermal Inkjet Printer can perform at notably higher speeds (90 m/min) and will not slow down your production line.

Cost per Print

The cost per print of labelers is multiple times higher than thermal inkjet printers. The consumables (labels and ribbons) used by print and apply labelers cost considerably more than the cost of ink consumed by Thermal Inkjet Printers. (In instances where the label is manually applied, the labor cost is an added factor). You can get an idea of your ink cost using our Ink Cost Calculator.


Thermal Inkjet TIJ Printer Uptime

Label replenishment or label changeover for print and apply machines could take several minutes to complete, and this means production line downtime. For high throughput production lines, labels may need to be refilled or switched multiple times during each shift. Also, there is the possibility of a stoppage resulting from label jams, ribbon jams, mechanical failure, and the need for mechanical adjustments. In contrast, a Thermal Inkjet printer only requires a quick ink cartridge change, which can be completed within seconds.


Thermal Inkjet Printer Maintenance-free Operation

Print-and-apply label machines consist of many moving parts and many failure points. Therefore, with the progression of time and operation, parts get worn and need replacing. So, preventive and constant on-going maintenance is needed to keep these printers in good operating condition. In comparison, TIJ printers have no moving parts and require no maintenance.


Thermal Inkjet TIJ Printer Consumables
Effective inventory management of consumables for a print and apply label printer means always having sufficient quantities of all label sizes, and ribbons in an easily accessible, ambient storage, that is close to the printers. (Excess humidity causes the labels to curl resulting in print and application errors or ultimately in scrapping the labels). In many cases, companies keep an excess inventory of labels because they figure that the expense of not having labels inventoried and available for production is more costly than carrying a safety stock. Often, as product coding requirements change, companies find themselves holding an inventory of obsolete labels. Moreover, operators may change partially used label rolls that are not fully depleted to prevent downtime during their shifts. The replaced rolls essentially end up as waste at a cost. In contrast, the only consumable required for the operation of Thermal Ink Printers is ink cartridges, many of which can be stored in minimal space.


Thermal Inkjet TIJ Printer Small Footprint

Thermal Inkjet Printers are compact and require minimal space for installation. For example, the dimensions of the RN Mark H1 printer controller is 170 mm (w) x 160 mm (h) x 44 mm (d) and for the printhead is 38 mm (w) x 90 mm (h) x 170 mm (d). In comparison, a print and apply label machine can occupy a space of .170 m3, which is about 150 times that of the space needed for H1 printer controller.


TIJ printers reduce waste in comparison to print and apply labelers which generate a lot of waste, such as;

  • depleted print ribbons
  • incorrectly printed labels
  • scrapped label rolls
  • label backing sheets

In Sum

Print and apply label machines are indispensable for some applications but for many uses, it can be to your benefit to look at alternatives that offer you a lower total cost of ownership and avoid downtime, maintenance, and consumables inventory issues.

Thermal Inkjet Printers are a viable option because they are maintenance-free, low-cost, offer high print quality and print speed. In the short term, your capital outlay for a TIJ printer is substantially less and in the long term, you can realize huge savings in the lower cost of consumables not having to maintain an inventory of labels and print ribbons.

Crush your print costs & boost production efficiency with a Thermal Inkjet Printer

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