An introduction to Thermal Transfer Overprinting technology

Is Thermal Transfer Overprinting a suitable solution for your coding needs?

Thermal Transfer Overprinting (TTO) systems were developed specifically to mark directly on flexible film packaging and labels. TTO is a digital printing technology that overcomes many of the deficiencies of analog printing solutions like hot stamp/hot foil and roller coders. Call to learn more: (833) 270-0843.

Consider TTO for a range of packaging applications and integration into your packaging equipment:

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Vertical form, fill and seal machines used to package:

  • Potato chips
  • Nuts/grains
  • Candy
  • Powders
  • Hardware

Horizontal form, fill and seal machines (also known as ‘flowrappers’) used to package:

  • Bakery products (bread, biscuits, cookies)
  • Confectionery

Thermoform and tray-sealing machines used to package:

  • Cheese
  • Processed meats

Pouch filling machinery used to package:

  • Coffee
  • Drinks
  • Soup

What is Thermal Transfer Overprinting?

Thermal Transfer Overprinting (TTO) is an ideal printing product for most flexible film packaging applications. The printing process produces a high-resolution code on the package while not degrading of the aesthetic quality of the packaging film artwork and design.

Thermal Transfer Overprinting

TTO advancements over hot stamp and other coding technologies

TTO was engineered as an advancement over traditional analog coding technologies like hot stamp and roller coders. Analog technologies have limited flexibility, constrained by the number of characters held in the type holder or the amount of text that can be added to the circumference of the die wheel. TTO technology is not constrained in this way.

With TTO, additional code content, including more lines of code and new date, time, or traceability data, can easily be added without any mechanical changes to the printer itself. And as product SKU counts increase, TTO offers a simple way to change printed content from one SKU to the next. Print jobs can be stored on the printer controller and easily recalled in a matter of seconds.

Unlike hot stamp that requires a warm-up period to bring the type holder to proper temperature, TTO technology can go from power-up to printing in less than 60 seconds.

Benefits of thermal transfer technology compared to analog technology

TTO uses a 300dpi (dots per inch/12 dots per mm) printhead that produces consistent and repeatable high resolution codes.

  • The TTO printhead is a solid ceramic block that has no sharp edges, eliminating the opportunity for perforation of the packaging film
  • As the printhead uses digital technology to produce a code, all information is updated automatically and, therefore, it is not necessary to stop the production line when new codes are required
  • TTO is digital technology containing a real-time clock computer chip and the ability to print variable information including dates, lot codes, and time
  • Data can update automatically

In contrast, analog coding technology, such as hot stamps and roller coders, uses metal stamps that are held in a heated block.

  • Stamps need to be replaced every time a new job is required in order to change the code data
  • Worn and broken stamps are a common occurrence and lead to poor print quality
  • Operators incorrectly insert stamps, make spelling mistakes, and lose stamps
  • Analog coding technologies use fixed stamps and therefore it is not possible to code real-time data
  • Updating data for different jobs can be a long process

TTO printing process
Thermal Transfer Overprinting applies a code to a flexible film or label by using a thermal printhead and a thermal ribbon.

The printhead comprises a ceramic coating covering a row of thermal pixels at a resolution of 12 printing dots per mm. The print information transfers to the thermal printhead and the individual printing dots are heated as required. The colored ink in the ribbon is transferred onto the printing material in the specified target area to produce a code.

TTO is a contact coding technology, which means that it must touch the flexible packaging film or label to produce a code. To accommodate this requirement, the TTO unit is installed (using a bracket and some ancillary parts) directly onto the packaging machine or labeling system, typically very close to the point of packaging.

The importance of thermal ribbon selection
Selecting a suitable thermal transfer ribbon is an important part of the coding process, as different ribbons will suit different applications. The ribbon type recommended by most thermal transfer suppliers will depend on the individual application and the exact code requirements

All Videojet ribbons feature advanced backcoat technology
A non-abrasive, silicone-based coating is applied to protect the printhead and extend printhead life. This technology also helps in dissipating static charges (which can result in damaged printheads and code degradation), while providing an excellent thermal conductor for ink transfer.

Low cost printing of variable messages
Thermal transfer overprinters are freely programmable and can generate variable data for each print. The high resolution printhead enables text, graphics, batch numbers, real-time dates and bar codes to be printed.

The latest technology in TTO only uses a minimal amount of ribbon for a 0.5mm gap between each print. By knowing the number of codes you achieve per roll of ribbon, you can accurately calculate the interval of ribbon change overs.

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Flexibility in production
Using thermal transfer technology allows you to mark the product when stationary (intermittent) or when moving (continuous) in a constant flow.

Seamless integration into your line
TTO machines are small, lightweight and easy to install into packaging equipment. Special brackets and accessories can be supplied as needed.

If you want to learn more about Thermal Transfer Overprinters, receive free print samples, or view a demonstration, contact a Videojet coding expert. Call (833) 270-0843.


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(866) 871-3226