Direct Thermal printing requires a more straightforward setup, keeping printing costs low. Direct Thermal does not require ink, ribbon, or toner to print, instead using nothing but heat-activation as the print head makes contact directly with label material. This is great for keeping maintenance simple, but some associated downsides should also be understood. Direct Thermal printers can only print in black, unlike Thermal Transfer. Direct thermal labeling media is sensitive to heat and liable to fade, reducing the printed material’s life. If exposed to too much light, the label media will darken, making bar codes unreadable. If the labels you print need to last over six months, use a Thermal Transfer printer instead.

The print head is prone to wearing out more quickly in Direct Thermal printers due to the direct friction created when the print head makes contact with the label media. It is also easier for the particulate build-up to accumulate on the print head if dirty media is fed into the printer, which is not uncommon if labels are stored somewhere dusty. This accumulation can scratch the print head and cause wear more quickly than a Thermal Transfer printhead.