All You Need to Know About Thermal Printers

If you have receipts coming from groceries, boutiques and even restaurants, chances are those receipts are printed using thermal printers. Unlike most printers that would need a toner or ink, thermal printers use heat to transfer the image to the paper. Currently, most of the thermal printers that are available in the market are those that can only print text and images using one color, often black. There are a number of thermal printers now available that can print two colors: black and red. These are called two-color direct thermal printers. These work by applying heat in two different temperatures on the paper to create the change in the color.

Aside from receipts, thermal printing technology is also used in most fax machines that are available in the market. It is also used in the medical field for printing ultrasound imaging results.

How do Thermal Printers Work?

A thermo-sensitive paper is inserted between the thermal head and the rubber roller that would feed the paper through the printer. The thermal printer then sends a current of electricity to the heating resistor located on the thermal head. This allows the thermal head to generate heat in a specific pattern. The heat then activates the layer of the thermo-sensitive paper which contains a dye called thermo-color.

In effect, there is still some form of ink or coloring just like all types of printer. The difference is that for thermal printers, the ink or coloring is embedded on a special paper designed specifically for thermal printing.
Common Thermal Printer Brands

  • IBM
  • Rimage
  • Wasp
  • Zebra
  • Epson

Advantages of Thermal Printers

Thermal printers are highly favored by many business establishments for printing of the receipts because they are able to print faster than most other printers. Prior to the introduction of thermal printers, business establishments would print receipts with dot matrix printer. These printers can be quite noisy and annoying for both the user and those within the establishment.

Another advantage for using thermal printers is that it is more economical. Unlike most printers where you would need to buy ink cartridges, toners or ribbons, thermal printers do not need to have cartridges to be replaced with paper supplies. You will just need to replace the paper that is used for the printer.

Disadvantages of Thermal Printers

One disadvantage of using a thermal printer is that it can only work with a specialized paper, which can be more expensive than ordinary bond paper that is used by other printers.

Another disadvantage of using a thermal printer is that it is limited in its printing capabilities. They are not able to print colored images just like liquid inkjet printers and laser printers. This makes thermal printers only able to print text documents.

Furthermore, texts that are printed on thermal papers are not permanent. Over time, the printed text fades. Manufacturers of thermal paper have stated that the average length of time for the printed text to last on a thermal paper is fifty years. This makes thermal printers not a viable choice if you are printing business documents.


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