Heat is the process that thermal printers use to create an image. Thermal printers consists of two types, thermal transfer (also known as thermal wax) and direct thermal (also known as thermal autochrome). Special paper that is chemically treated is used by direct thermal printers, and when heat is applied to the paper it changes colors.
The paper is pulled across a heating element within the printer through the use of rollers, and for the section that it is heated the paper changes color to form images or text. Conversely, thermal transfer printers hold the ink on a ribbon in place of on the paper itself which is then transferred to the paper when it is heated. Both designs utilize similar types of heating elements.
Various Uses of Thermal Printers
Thermal transfer printers are more likely to be utilized to create labels, mainly clothing tags, as well as barcodes because of it's durability and speed of the images it creates, particularly in preventing water damage. Various kinds of labels use numerous types of inks depending on the kind of material it is being printed on.
In the case of direct thermal printers, mostly they are utilized for industrial use predominantly because of their speed. The primary advantage for a direct thermal printer is that the only consumable is the paper that is used. Even though this type of paper may be expensive, there is no requirement to purchase or store ink, and it is the only item that requires replacing in order to keep the printer running smoothly.
Because of this, direct thermal printers are quite often utilized to print out receipts from various machines such as credit card machines and cash registers. Early technology such as older fax machines also often utilized direct thermal printing technology, however this type of method has mostly been phased out.
Thermal Printers – Pros and Cons
Thermal printers are well known for their high printing speed, which make some very suitable for some business applications. They do not have a lot of moving parts, therefore they are extremely reliable. Additionally, they have images that are durable, particularly thermal transfer printers.
In the past, images generated from direct thermal printers were prone to distortion or fading when exposed to water, heat, light or friction, however recent technological advancements have made them readable for periods of up to 50 years or more. Another advantage of direct thermal printers is that they have no other supply needs except for paper.
However, unlike inkjet printers and laser printers thermal printers have lower printing quality than these other styles. Thermal transfer printers only need the same amount of ink ribbon for any page, regardless of how much material is actually printed on it.
Additionally, because direct thermal printers only have the ability to print just one or two colors, they are not ideal for more detailed print jobs. Also, direct thermal printers require special paper, which tends to be more expensive than normal paper.