Get the real deal when it comes to ribbons

January 16, 2017

We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ and most of us at one time or another will have experienced that sinking feeling when something we thought was a bargain turned out to be far from it.

When it comes to purchasing thermal transfer printer ribbons this saying should be kept firmly in mind, as compatible ribbons can be nothing more than a false economy. One of the most common reasons why people fall into the trap of buying compatible ribbons is the initial cost. Yet, compared to the genuine article, they tend to be between just 10-20 per cent cheaper, a figure that pales into insignificance when additional advantages such as performance, consistency, quality and value are factored in.

As an example, let’s look at the issues surrounding barcode printing. In 2014 The GS1 Label Quality Report discovered that almost 30 per cent of all pallets it reviewed had some form of labelling problem such as poor print quality. Unreadable barcodes will usually require re-labelling, re-scanning, or even manual entry of critical information by a human operator. There might also be costs and fines imposed for sending back and re-palletising and, in the case of food, the entire shipment could have to be thrown away. Accurate printing is therefore crucial for effective value chain management and high-quality ribbons are fundamental in making this happen.

So what’s the difference between manufacturer approved and compatible ribbons? The answer is much more than you might imagine. The former are made with a high-quality back coating, which prevents a build up of static charge. In a thermal transfer printer, static can create an electrical spike, which could easily blow the pins on the print head, necessitating a replacement. Print heads can be expensive to replace and warranties can be invalidated through the use of compatible products.

It might also surprise you to know that ribbons deteriorate with age and have a limited shelf life – typically 12 months from the date of manufacture. Compatible products are generally taken from ‘jumbo’ rolls that may have been transported all around the world and exchange hands many times over a period of many months before finally being converted into ribbons to fit a particular printer. Conversely, manufacturer approved ribbons are largely made to order from fresh a jumbo roll. The finished product received by the customer is never more than between 1 or 2 months old.

Toshiba approved ribbons are constantly being tested to ensure the quality and consistency. These tests are carried out on a variety of receiving materials and at every speed and temperature combination. Only once the tests are completed, and deemed successful, will the ribbon receive a certificate of approval and customers can also rest assured that it has been manufactured in facilities that operate to the highest environmental standards such as ISO 50001 and other European Union (EU) regulation.

Using the right ribbon for the application is vital and yet there is often a lack of knowledge about this issue. It’s why technical support is vital and we have experts who can always recommend the right solution for any application, whether it is standard label printing, textile/wash care or a speciality application requiring, BS 5609, UL or direct food certification. Toshiba approved ribbons will cover them all.

Don’t be fooled by lower cost ribbons. Although they might look like a good deal initially, when it comes to performance, consistency, total cost of ownership and the ability to protect an investment, they can prove to be sadly lacking. On the other hand, if you buy manufacturer approved ribbons, you can feel confident that they have been designed and manufactured to meet the highest standards using the best quality materials. Ultimately, they will enhance the overall print quality and give the best possible results.

Author of this post: Tony Morrison

Tony Morrison is Consumables Account Manager at Toshiba TEC UK. If you'd like to discuss the current range of consumables available, you can email him or reach him on 0843 2244944.

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