Ribbon Cartridges 101


Types of Printers Loading Ribbon Cartridges

Laser printers and Inkjets are the types of printers popular in the mainstream. Thus, it is typical to find these devices in offices, home offices and the home. However, there are still industries that make use of the conventional printer loaded with ribbon cartridges. The consumable is commonly used in thermal image transfer. This means that the printer uses heat to melt the coated ribbon as it passes through in unison with the material and leaves impressions. There are many digital printers used in many industries that use ribbon consumables; examples of this are label printers, line printers, barcode printers and other models of fax machines.


Ribbon cartridges are much preferred in manufacturing and enterprise facilities. This is because they are cost effective and operate on simple print technology, unlike toners and inks. Good quality print output is also not required by users in this case. Ribbon cartridges can turn out thousands or even a million prints before the ink is completely depleted; requiring less need for replacements. Thermal printing technology is as basic as heating the ribbon and glueing the ink on the paper which is less complex than the more mainstream types of printers.

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Line printers for instance are commonly used to print box labels or large industrial applications such as invoices, shipments and OCRs. Label and barcode printers are found in warehouses, distribution centers and factories in varying sizes and capacities. Said devices use ribbon consumables that contain either waxy or resin substances. On-demand thermal transfer printers also prefer spool ribbon consumables in line line with their waterfast properties and speed.
Print Quality

Ribbon cartridges are routinely not used for full-page printing. In fact, they are not intended for printing fine texts for books and documents. Instead, they are designed to print labels and barcodes given its print speed and the ability to turn out permanent impressions. Thermal transfer printers can also deliver an array of font styles, font sizes and graphics that can be upgraded by help of software and applications. These enhance print quality and resolution and allow the device to turn out accurate and even results even during long run printing.

Unlike toner and ink that depend on the printer’s report of its yield and toner/ink levels, the density of its imprints easily determines the ribbon’s ink level; although ribbon cartridge based printers also flash low ribbon life indicators. On most printers, the low ribbon life indicator appears when the ink level reaches 2%. Ribbon cartridges have a 17,000 page yield rating at high capacity while spool ribbons have a 13,000 page yield rating. However, there are ribbon cartridges intended for heavy printing that yields even up to 15,000,000 pages. Since ribbon consumables are used in thermal transfer, the impressions are permanent but are very prone to fade and smear especially when exposed to UV and abrasive materials.
Shelf Life

Like any other printer consumable, ribbon cartridges and spool ribbon consumables last up to 24 months. This is if these are properly stored. As mentioned, ribbons are either made of wax, resin or of both substances. This makes them easily prone to abrasions, UV exposure and smear.


Ribbon cartridges offer more advantages in terms of yield and installation over spool ribbons. The latter requires the ribbon to be touched which is messy and cause damage to the consumable when not done installing. Replacing the cartridge is as easy as pie. Here’s how:

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How To Replace a Ribbon Cartridge?

  1. Turn off printer. Let it cool down for a few minutes if you just used the printer.
  2. Unplug printer from the socket.
  3. Open the printer cover and paper lid cover.
  4. Remove the tension unit by pressing the lock tabs. Gently pull it away from the printer.
  5. Gently remove the ribbon cartridge in the printer. Hold it in both sides.
  6. Open the new ribbon cartridge package. Check the cartridge and remove the slack by turning the small knob according to the arrow’s direction. This will tighten the ribbon cartridge and make it easier to install.
  7. Insert new cartridge according to the cartridge’s arrow direction. Slowly press inside the printer until it is firmly inserted in the hooks. A distinct click will indicate that the cartridge was securely inserted.
  8. Turn the ribbon knob to feed the ribbon in place. If the problem occurs when feeding, use a sharp object or a ballpoint pen to gently press the ribbon to the feed. Careful not to twist or crease the ribbon as it will damage and cause printing problems.
  9. Put the cover back in place. Run a test print.

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