Fundamentally there are two different types of barcode printers to choose from: thermal transfer and direct thermal printers. You will find barcode printers on the market which can offer both facilities, but these tend to be the high end models and by default they are likely to be more expensive.
Two varieties of barcode printer
Technically the difference between the two is Direct thermal prints the barcode directly on the label while thermal transfer makes use of a ribbon and a print head. The ribbon is heated and the image is etched on by the print head.
Individual scenarios will call for the use of either type so it is unlikely you will need both. Thermal transfer barcode printers can offer the capacity to print barcodes of different colours. Also the final result is likely to be clearer and more succinct; therefore they can be perfect if your product needs high density barcode labels.
What is your work environment?
If you are likely to be printing your barcode labels on more than one type of packaging then consider thermal transfer as they enable printing on paper, film and foil substrates. Thermal transfer barcodes are more likely to be durable so if this is important in the shelf life of your product then this is the direction you need to be going in.
Be careful of the negatives
However, a great disadvantage of thermal transfer is that the ribbon needs to be changed quite frequently. So if you are using the barcode printer in a manufacturing environment, there could be a lot of downtime which you would need to allow for.
In the situation where you are needing to print barcodes irregularly (i.e. not in a factory line) and there is also a need for speed then a direct thermal printer is your answer. An example would be in a security setting where each visitor is given a new barcode during the visit. Conversely if you have a warehouse and you need to print thousands of barcode labels at a time you will need a thermal transfer printer.