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Printing Knowledge

What is a thermal printer and how does it work?

Release Time: 02/28/2012 08:50 View: 50

Thermal printers have revolutionized the printing landscape with their efficiency, economy, and speed. They are particularly popular in the eCommerce industry for printing shipping labels, but their uses extend to various sectors, such as retail, healthcare, and logistics. In this article, we will explore the inner workings of a thermal printer, compare direct thermal and thermal transfer printing.

A thermal printer is a type of printer that employs a heated printhead to generate black text or images on paper or other materials. These printers are known for their efficiency and cost-effectiveness, enabling quick and high-quality printing of labels, receipts, barcodes, ID badges, and custom stickers.

What Is a Thermal Printer?

Thermal printhead is the core component of a thermal printer, a thermal printer uses the thermal printhead to produce images or text on paper.

Thermal Printer and Its Thermal Print Head

It operates by selectively heating thermal paper or an ink ribbon in specific areas. The process involves a thermal print head that applies heat and pressure to the paper, causing the coated sections to darken and create the desired output.

Thermal printers are favored for their simplicity, speed, and reliability.

They’re used extensively in industries like retail, healthcare, logistics, and manufacturing for their cost-effectiveness and ability to generate high-resolution prints very quickly.

How Does a Thermal Printer Work?

The first thing to understand about how thermal printers work is that there are two types of thermal printers:

1. Direct Thermal Printers

This type of thermal printer does not use ink, toner, or ribbons. Instead, the printhead applies pressure heat onto the surface of thermal paper. The paper’s reaction to the heat and pressure is to turn black to produce the desired image or text.

Direct Thermal Printing

2. Thermal Transfer Printers

This type of thermal printer uses a wax-coated ink ribbon to press onto the surface of the paper, the wax then melts and exposes the ink which takes hold and dries. This type of thermal printer allows for higher quality (and longer lasting) print jobs but requires a ribbon that must be replaced.

Thermal Transfer Printing

Is a Thermal Printer Inkless?

If using direct thermal printing, then yes! Direct thermal printers rely on thermal paper to create images and text. The paper turns black when heat and pressure are applied.

What are Thermal Printers Used for?

Direct thermal printing is commonly used for receipts, labels, and tickets. Odds are, if you’ve ever shopped at a retail store, your receipt was printed using a direct thermal printer because they can print fast and require very little upkeep aside from replacing the paper roll. This way, operations go uninterrupted throughout the day.

Thermal transfer printing is used when more durable prints are needed, making this form of thermal printing suitable for labels, barcodes, and packaging.

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