A thermal label printer is capable of printing using two different printing processes. Thermal Transfer or Direct Thermal printing. Thermal transfer requires a ribbon to apply the print to the label. Direct thermal printing requires a thermal printhead that uses heat to transfer the ink to the label.
Printing with a thermal ribbon
Thermal labels are passed under the ribbon and then under the printhead where the ink from the ribbon is then transferred to the label and thus the print applied. The darkness of the ink can be adjusted via printer settings to accommodate the desired look of the label.
Print labels without a ribbon
Printing labels via direct thermal is similar to thermal transfer printing but, without the use of a ribbon. Direct thermal utilizes the heat from the printhead and the chemicals within the direct thermal labels to adhere the image or text to each label that passes under the printhead. Any thermal label printer can be found using some sort of means to print a label. Which printer process are you using?