Ribbon Selection Guide
Thermal transfer printing is the technology of choice for producing high quality labels. Designed especially for label printing, thermal transfer ribbons produce sharp, high-contrast, long-lasting label images with excellent bar code scannability. 
Thermal transfer ribbons consist of three important elements: a protective backcoating, a synthetic film, and the thermal transfer ink. Proper backcoating is important. It extends the life of the print head.
The backcoating provides lubrication to prevent the ribbon from sticking to the print head during printing operations. It also dissipates heat and static and protects the print head from abrasion from the film. The backcoating must be properly formulated to prevent a backcoating deposit buildup on the print head. The film is manufactured to ensure its smoothness, high heat resistance, high thermal conductivity, high tensile strength, and chemical resistance. The film also provides important protection for the print head against abrasion from the label or tag media being printed. Ink formulations are important because each is designed to create the best printed image on a different and particular kind of media.
There are three categories of thermal transfer ribbons based on ink formulations: wax, resin and wax/resin. Each is manufactured with high quality materials to exacting specifications to fit particular operating conditions and purposes.
Wax Ribbons
Wax ribbons produce crisp text, clear graphic images and sharp, high contrast bar codes at an economical price. Wax ribbons are lower in cost and print at higher speeds than resin ribbons. If your label will not be exposed to rough handling or scanned with a contact scanner, a wax ribbon may be the choice for you. Wax ribbons are designed for many of the most common bar code applications, such as carton shipping labels, product/inventory identification, and work-in-progress tracking. They are effective on coated labels and tags, and often perform well on smoother, uncoated paper stocks. Some types of Wax ribbons are not recommended for use with synthetic facestocks. Some Wax ribbons provide very good smudge resistance and good abrasion resistance.
Resin Ribbons
Resin ribbons produce printed images that have excellent smudge resistance and very good to excellent scratch resistance. Images printed with resin ribbons last as long as the label material itself. These ribbons are recommended for use in exposure to harsh environments, where rough handling is expected and where archivability is required.
Some Resin Ribbons so Rugged that they provide super image durability, are suitable for harsh environments, are resistant to scratches and will not smudge or smear.  But keep in mind that some are not recommended for uncoated paper stock.
Resin Ribbons ribbons are recommended for permanent bar codes because they provide excellent durability in harsh environments.  Some types of Resin ribbons are recommended for extended outdoor or extreme industrial uses and where chemical resistance is required.  They have excellent scratch and smudge resistance and are unaffected by washing with strong detergents or solvents. They are recommended for use on highly durable synthetic label and tag stocks (polyesters, polypropylenes, and other plastics.)  They are not recommended for coated or uncoated paper stock.
They are recommended for printer speeds up to 4-8 inches per second.
Wax/Resin Ribbons
Wax/Resin ribbons provide a performance compromise between wax and resin inks. They offer a higher performance print image than wax inks at faster print speeds and a lower cost than a pure resin ribbon. Wax/Resin inks a highly smudge and scratch resistance image. Wax/Resin ribbons can print on a much broader selection of media than either wax or resin inks. You can find Wax/Resin ribbons in a wide selection of colors.