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Thermal paper: what is two-sided thermal paper?

Release Time: 04/28/2011 07:03 View: 1322

Two sided thermal roll paper utilizes technology in which two thermal print heads print simultaneously on both the front and the back sides of a receipt. The two print heads are contained within a single thermal printer. NCR developed and patented this two sided thermal technology and has branded it 2ST (Two-Sided Thermal). There are pros and cons to this technology depending on who you talk to. In this post, I will try to break it down for you.

What Are the Benefits?

According to NCR, two sided thermal printing offers the following advantages:

Reduce Your Total Cost of Ownership

  • Less paper leads to lower overall consumables investment
  • Reduced labor costs by simplifying or eliminating processes
  • Lower inventory and reduced freight
  • Less waste / obsolescence with pre-printed media

Improve Operational Efficiencies

  • Two print heads increase printer speed and overall throughput. (this is disputed by IBM – see below)
  • Up to 50% fewer paper roll changes mean reduced customer wait times
  • Receipts are shorter, more manageable

Targeted Marketing Message

  • Variable print on-demand for the ultimate in affordable personalization
  • Enhance your profitability by eliminating costly preprinted media

Environmental Benefits

  • Reduced paper consumption
  • Reduced fuel and energy use
  • Reduced waste production and water requirements
  • Reduced use of landfill space

What Are the Negatives?

According to an IBM white paper published in October of 2010, two sided thermal printing offers the following disadvantages:

High Up Front Cost

  • Printer equipment is costly to purchase
  • Two sided paper can cost up to 2 1/2 times more than single sided thermal
  • Increased Printing Time
  • Transaction time can be as much as 33% longer due to the slower print speed of two sided thermal printers


  • Due to the new technology, the supporting electronics have been found to be problematic
  • Because it requires two thermal print heads instead of one, the printer is more costly to repair

Greater Environmental Impact

  • 2-sided media can require up to 30% more energy to produce
  • Less sustainable packaging

In addition, black printing on the front and back may be over looked by customers. Color printing has been found to be more effective when trying to grab the consumer’s attention.

Who is Buying In?

The following thermal printer OEM’s are in different stages of committing to this technology:

  • NCR
  • Zebra
  • Toshiba TEC
  • Hengstler-HECON
  • SNBC
  • Sato

At this time, other major thermal printer manufacturers including IBM, Epson, Star Micronics, Citizen, Bixilon and Seiko have not made a commitment.

Who is Making the Paper?

The following paper coaters are manufacturing the two sided thermal paper.

  • Oji Japan, Kanzan and Kanzaki
  • Appleton Paper
  • Mitsubishi HiTec
  • Koehler

Our Conclusion:

While this could be a revolutionary product, it is still early in the game to know for sure. As you can see, there are differences in opinion depending on who you talk to. Two color thermal paper had potential some years back but in the end, the paper was too expensive so the volume never came to drive down the raw material costs. Many printer OEM’s still advertise that their printers can print in 2 colors, but people are hard pressed to find the paper to run it.

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