What is a thermal printer?

2 min read

A thermal printer is not your typical household printer. Instead of using lasers or ink to create text and images, thermal printers use heat sensitive supplies to produce a high-quality result quickly and with less waste. Thermal printers are now very common for commercial enterprises and in industrial workplaces. Movie tickets are often printed using this process as well as labels in grocery stores and even lottery tickets.

Essentially, a thermal printer uses heat to copy an image onto a material and inkjet printing uses ink to copy the image onto material. When printing a complicated or detailed image onto paper, inkjet printers will often be the superior option. If you’re looking rather to print a ticket or labels however, thermal printing will be the way to. Thermal printing can be broken down into two different methods: direct thermal and thermal transfer.

Thermal transfer

The process of thermal transfer printing is using heat to produce on paper, a label, or other material. A coating is melted onto the chosen material to create an extremely strong bond between the symbol or words and the material itself. There are two different components (other than the printer) used in the thermal transfer process: a supply and ribbon. Think of the supply as the paper and the ribbon as the ink. The ink will be melted onto the supply to create the highest quality text and an extremely durable label.

Direct thermal

Unlike thermal transfer printers, a direct thermal printer will not use ribbon, ink, or toner in the printing process. Instead, these printers use chemically treated and heat-sensitive media that darkens when applies to a thermal printhead. Direct thermal printers can be mobile and carried around workplaces and are often used around warehouses.

Which one?

When deciding which printer is best for your facility, whether it’s a thermal transfer printer or a direct thermal printer, it is important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages for both. Thermal transfer printers can print on more materials than a direct thermal printer, but direct thermal printers are often easier to use because there are less components. Direct thermal printer images unfortunately do not last a lifetime and the readability can vary.

If you’re looking for a versatile printer to create durable labels for your workplace that will last for years to come, the thermal transfer printer is the best choice. These printers, like the LabelTac line of industrial printers are designed to create labels in a variety of sizes and will withstand nearly any industrial environment. These printers can produce almost any kind of label you would need for a facility including labels for pipe marking, labels for inventory identification, labels that provide instructions, safety labels compliant with OSHA standards, labels for safety warnings, and much more!

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