Traditionally, thermal printers have been mostly used in offices that rely heavily on printed labels and receipts. However, they are now also being used with mobile devices, which many small businesses and the self-employed individuals often use for their business transactions. These types of printers can be more expensive than inkjet printers, but they offer many advantages. Thermal printers operate differently than inkjet printers, and they possess a unique technology.

Understanding the Tech

There are two main types of thermal printers: direct thermal and thermal wax transfer. A direct thermal printer does not use separate ink, ribbons or toner. Direct thermal printers use chemically treated paper that is heated by a thermal print head as it burns dots onto the surface. Thermal transfer printers use a ribbon with wax-based ink. The thermal printhead applies heat to the ribbon and melts the ink. This transfers the ink to the paper where it becomes permanent after cooling. The transfer ribbon is usually comprised of three layers, which are the base, the ink and the coating on the printing side of the base material.

Common Uses

Thermal printers are primarily used to make labels, barcodes, shipping labels, safety signs and other items that are in high demand. They are also often used in making GHS labels. Direct thermal printers are typically used for shipping labels and receipts, and thermal transfer printers are commonly used for other labels. Cash registers, credit card readers, label machines and printing calculators often have built-in monochrome thermal printers. Some desktop photo printers utilize thermal printing, and graphic design shops that transfer images onto novelty items do as well.

Pros and Cons

Thermal printers have advantages and disadvantages. The labels and signs created with thermal printers last longer and hold up better under adverse environmental conditions than those printed with an ink printer. Thermal printers can print many different items, and they require less maintenance than inkjet printers. The downside to thermal printers is that they offer fewer color choices. They are also more expensive.

The decision on whether to use a thermal printer or an inkjet printer usually depends on the type output and amount of use. If you need to print out large quantities of receipts or labels that will retain their integrity and you do not mind spending a little more, you may find that a thermal printer will suit you very well.

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