Ink Ribbon Buying Guide

Ink Ribbon Buying Guide

While laser printers and inkjet printers may have predominantly taken over the consumer market, printers that use ink ribbons still have a firm grip on the business world, particularly when it comes to industrial types of printing. Many small and large businesses, including retailers and manufacturers, use printers with ink ribbons on a daily basis. This guide will outline some of the various types of ink ribbon printers, as well as the types of ribbons that are needed for printing on those printers.

Types of Ink Ribbon Printers
Printers that use ink ribbons are not usually found in the homes of many consumers these days, but they can still be found in many office buildings, retail stores, and manufacturing facilities. The most common examples of ink ribbon printers include the following types: dot matrix and other types of impact printers, which are used in many offices where specific forms and documents are printed on duplicate or triplicate paper; cash registers and point of sale systems, which typically contain small thermal transfer printers used for printing receipts; and large thermal transfer printers, which are used for many industrial purposes, such as printing barcodes and labels for clothing.
Types of Ink Ribbons
In some cases, the different types of printers use entirely different types of ribbons . In other cases, the type of ribbon that should be used is determined by the type of printing task that is being done. As an example, a thermal transfer printer can use several different types of ink ribbon, but the type of ink ribbon that works best for printing clothing labels is different from the type of ink ribbon that would be used for printing price tags.

Dot Matrix Printer Ink Ribbons
Dot matrix printers use either cloth or plastic ink ribbons, depending on the model of the printer. These types of printers are often called impact printers because the printhead strikes the ribbon to transfer ink onto the paper. Although these printers were mostly phased out in the consumer market after inkjet and laser printers grew in popularity, they are still often found in many offices that do a high volume of label printing or a high volume of duplicate/triplicate form printing.

Cash Register and Point of Sale Ink Ribbons
Simple cash registers may contain small impact printers that use nylon ribbons for printing, but most modern, elaborate point of sale systems use small thermal transfer printers to print receipts, coupons, and other store-related items on special thermal paper for customers. Most of these systems use wax thermal ink ribbons, but some systems may use a wax / resin combination ink ribbons for greater durability.

Thermal Transfer Printer Ink Ribbons
Not surprisingly, thermal transfer printers use heat to, in essence, melt the ink and transfer it onto the printed medium. Durability needs can vary dramatically when it comes to items that are printed with thermal transfer printers, which is why there are three different types of ink that are made for these printers: wax thermal ink ribbons, wax/resin thermal ink ribbons, and resin thermal ink ribbons.

Wax Thermal Ink Ribbons
Wax thermal ink ribbons are primarily used for printing on paper products. The wax ink adheres to both matte and semi-gloss finishes and is designed to last without smudging for years. However, the ink has to be kept dry, and it cannot be subjected to scratching or rubbing. Chemicals and oils can also easily destroy the ink, and this includes the oils from skin. This type of ink will last for years only if the item that has been printed with it is tucked away in a dry location and is rarely handled, which is why it is most commonly used for printed items that are only intended to last for a short period of time.

Wax/Resin Thermal Ink Ribbons
Wax / resin combination ink ribbons contain ink with greater durability and longer life spans than their pure wax counterparts do. Because of the resin content, these inks are more resistant to chemicals, smudges, and scratches than wax ink is, which makes these ink ribbons much more appropriate for printing items that could potentially be exposed to a good deal of human contact. Wax/resin inks are still susceptible to water, however, and are not typically used on items that could be exposed to moisture.

Resin Thermal Ink Ribbons
Resin thermal ink ribbons produce the highest quality of the three types of thermal ink ribbons, as well as the most durable print of all of the types of thermal ink ribbons. These inks are extremely resistant to heat, chemicals, scratching, and many other environmental hazards. Because of their high level of durability, resin inks are typically used in industrial fields, such as manufacturing, but there are smaller scale business uses for them as well.
Common Uses of Ink Ribbons
The different types of ink ribbons outlined in the section above are each generally suitable for certain, specific uses and not for others. Some of the most common uses for the different types of ink ribbons are noted in the chart below:

Type of Ink Ribbon
Common Uses
Dot Matrix Printer Ink Ribbon

Shipping/mailing and other labels

Some cash register receipts

Some credit card receipts

Duplicate/triplicate Forms

Cash Register and Point of Sale Ink Ribbons

Cash register receipts

Register-printed coupons/offers

Credit card receipts

Wax Thermal Ink Ribbons

Shipping/mailing and other labels

Paper garment tags

Price tags

Some fax machines

Wax / Resin Thermal Ink Ribbons

Glossy/smooth materials

Synthetic materials

Vinyl materials

Longer lasting price/garment tags

Some fax machines

Food packaging/labels


Resin Thermal Ink Ribbons

Cloth textile/garment labels

Plastic ID cards/tags


High-gloss coated materials

Pharmaceutical labels

Chemical drum labels

Industrial packaging

Automotive labeling

Miscellaneous Ink Ribbons
Although it is certainly rare to find anyone using who is still using an electric typewriter on a regular basis, these machines still exist and ink ribbons are still manufactured for electric typewriters. There are also other types of miscellaneous office machines, such as calculators and adding machines, that are capable of printing on rolls of paper.
Buying Ink Ribbons on
Whether you still have a dot matrix printer for your own personal use or whether you need to stock up on some printing supplies for your business, you can find a wide selection of ink ribbons on

To shop by category, start with the Electronics category and navigate to the Ink Ribbons subcategory that is located several layers within the Computers / Tablets and Networking category. To search for a specific type of ink ribbon, you can use the search bar that is conveniently located on any page. Also, in Accuprint, you can also navigate to Ink Ribbons in the Computers / Tablets and Networking category.

Smart shopping on always starts with a little research and an educated approach.
The average consumer may be mostly out of the picture when it comes to purchasing ink ribbons, but with the market for the numerous types of business-related and industrial ink ribbon printing still being a healthy one, ink ribbons are in no danger of disappearing anytime soon. Cash registers, credit card machines, fax machines, and numerous styles of thermal transfer printers all print with ink ribbons on a daily basis. The price tags that are attached to clothing, as well as the labels that are sewn inside, are all created on printers that use ink ribbon technology.

Some printers make the purchasing decision easy by only supporting a specific type of ribbon, but other printers are capable of printing with a variety of ribbon types. Each type of ribbon is generally designed for very specific types of printing, so when buyers are considering which type of ink ribbon to purchase for their business, their final decision will likely come down to the type of printing that needs to be done and the necessary durability of the printing. The scenarios and information that have been presented in this guide will allow those buyers to make a more informed decision as they consider which types of ink ribbons they need to purchase.