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Thermal printers allow you to complete a broad range of printing tasks while utilizing a variety of papers and materials. They are known to be very efficient and economical, allowing you to label or ship your products quickly.

Thermal printers have many uses and have changed the shipping game for eCommerce business owners. Forget about the days when you had to use a laser or expensive inkjet printer to print your shipping labels. Thermal printers allow you to print mass quantities of shipping labels quickly.

This means you can save time, money, and have your packages ready for the couriers. There’s also opportunities for you to receive discounts on shipping rates. This article will explore what a thermal printer is, how it works, and its many uses.

What Is A Thermal Printer?

This type of printer will utilize a heated thermal printhead that will press against paper or other materials to produce black text or an image. There are two different types of thermal printers and depending on your needs one type may be better than another.

The heated printhead will either be activated by thermal paper (specialty paper that has been chemically treated) or it can transfer solid black ink from a ribbon which will then bond to the medium you are printing on.

The most common use for a thermal printer is to print shipping labels. However, there are several other tasks this printer can easily take on such as labels, receipts, barcodes, ID badges, custom stickers, and much more.

How Do Thermal Printers Work?

There are two different types of thermal printers: Direct thermal printers and Thermal transfer printers. Understanding how each works will help you determine which printer is best for you.

Direct Thermal Printing

Direct Thermal printers use no ribbon, ink cartridges, or toner. The printhead will heat up and apply pressure to the paper or label. They require the use of heat-sensitive thermal paper. This paper is created to react to the heat that is produced by the printer head.

The beauty of a direct thermal printer is the fact that there are little to no maintenance costs. Other printers will require ink or toner, which can become very pricey.

This type of paper can be sensitive to direct sunlight and extreme temperatures, causing the label information to fade when exposed to either for extended periods of time. A typical life of a direct thermal printed label is around six to eight months.

If you have ever noticed that an old receipt is faded this is why. This printer also only prints in one color, making it not suitable for all applications.

Thermal Transfer Printing

The thermal transfer printer will press a wax-coated ribbon onto your medium. This wax is melted, which then releases the ink and is transferred onto your printing material.

The advantage of a thermal transfer printer is the fact that they are less likely to fade with age.

The downside is that you will have to replace the ribbons for this printer. This means there are more costs associated with a thermal transfer printer than with a direct thermal printer. Since there are more mechanical parts involved, there is also more room for the printer to break or have errors.

Benefits Of Thermal Printers

Below we will review the many benefits that a thermal printer has. These key points will help you understand the functionality of a thermal printer and what it has to offer you.

  • Quick Printing Method – You can create a label and print it within seconds. This can save you time when trying to get packages out the door and speed up your production.
  • Economical – Thermal printers allow you to print efficiently. You do not have to worry about replacing expensive inks and toners. Plus, you will have a lot less maintenance and repair costs associated with a thermal printer.
  • High-quality image – A thermal printer can produce images and text that are clean and clear.
  • Different Media Types – A thermal printer can print on various materials including paper, labels, plastic, and other composite materials.
  • Decrease In Waste – Thermal printers are very efficient and allow you to print with little to no waste. It is the perfect alternative to traditional inkjet or laser printers.

Disadvantages Of Thermal Printers

It’s important to know the good and bad surrounding thermal printers. This will also help you see if this type of printer is right for you. Below is a list of the disadvantages of owning a thermal printer.

  • Fade Over Time – Thermal printers are known to produce prints that can fade over time. This is because the paper is sensitive to direct heat and direct sunlight.
  • One Color – Thermal printers typically only print in one color. Some printers on the market will allow you to have more than one ribbon installed in your thermal transfer printer at a time.
  • Purchase Price – Thermal printers are pricier than regular inkjet printers. However, you have to consider the savings you are gaining by not having to replace the ink.

What Is A Thermal Printer Used For?

There are many uses for thermal printers. They can be used in retail stores, kiosks, hospitals, gas stations, labs, and business offices. Many businesses and organizations will choose to purchase a thermal printer solely for printing shipping or product labels. This can save the company thousands of dollars a year between the price of ink and savings on discounted shipping labels.

  • Shipping Labels – The number one use for thermal printers is printing shipping labels. The ease of use and cost-effectiveness of these printers have helped improve the way businesses ship.
  • Product Labels – If you have a business you know the importance of product labeling. If your cash register has a barcode scanner, you will easily be able to print barcodes and put them on your products. Thermal printers are the easiest way for business owners to label their products.
  • Asset Labels – Some companies put a tracking sticker on their equipment to help track their assets. A thermal printer is one of the easiest ways to do this. Businesses can now track their computers, scanners, and other machinery by simply printing out tracking labels when they purchase new equipment.
  • Visitor ID Labels – Some businesses have to have security measures in place. A thermal printer allows you to easily print out security ID labels for those visiting your company.
  • Receipt Printing – Many retail stores utilize thermal printers to print receipts. It is a cheap and easy way for businesses to be able to hand their customers a receipt for their purchase.
  • Library Labels – With everything moving digital, libraries have switched to adding a thermally printed bar code to their books for easy checkout.

Who Could Benefit From A Thermal Printer?

If you ship, own a small business or have a lot of assets, you may benefit from a thermal printer. Below are multiple industries and how they utilize thermal printers.

  • Logistics and Transportation – Inventory, shipping, receiving, packing, and return labels.
  • Manufacturing – Compliance, maintenance, parts, quality assurance, tracking.
  • Healthcare – ID bracelets, lab, pharmacy, asset labeling.
  • Retail and Hospitality – Product labels, receipts, passes, ID badges, inventory.
  • Government – Asset Management, ID badges, management, supply chain labels.

Difference Between Inkjet and Thermal Printers

Inkjet Printers

  • Print Method – Ink will be dispensed from a nozzle onto the substrate as tiny droplets.
  • Costs – Inkjet printers cost a lot less upfront when comparing them to thermal printers. However, the ink and maintenance will be significantly higher for an inkjet printer.
  • Print Quality – The print quality of an inkjet printer can be very good, depending on the type of printer you purchase. However, over time your prints may lose quality if exposed to sunlight or moisture.
  • Durability – Inkjets have a lot of moving parts which leaves room for issues to happen. It can break down and the spray nozzle can easily become clogged.
  • Portability – Most inkjets are not portable. They will need to be used in a home or office.
  • Power – Most inkjet printers will have AC power, which is not as energy efficient as thermal printers.
  • Use Cases – These printers are best suited for a home or office setting. It is best used for printing docs, photos, flyers, manuals, and signs.

Thermal Printers

  • Print Method – These types of printers do not use ink or toner. Depending on the type of thermal printer you purchase, it may use a wax pigment or use a heated printhead to produce the print.
  • Costs – Thermal printers will cost more upfront to purchase than an inkjet but they are much cheaper to maintain.
  • Print Quality – You will have a limit to what colors you can print. Most thermal printers only print black. You can get thermal transfer printers that do allow for colored ribbons. Prints tend to last longer, even though they can fade some with age.
  • Durability – Thermal printers have very little maintenance. Most printheads will last for 10 years.
  • Portability – Most thermal printers are small and very portable.
  • Power –  You can get thermal printers that are battery-operated or use AC power.
  • Use Cases –  These printers are best suited for labels, barcodes, and receipts.

Shopping Thermal Printers

If you are looking for the best in the industry, you have come to the right place. Rollo is the number one source for thermal printers.

Rollo USB Thermal Printer

The Rollo USB printer can be connected to any Mac or Windows computer using a USB cord. It has label detection so you can use almost any type of label you like and the printer will automatically recognize it. This printer can print a label every second. It is very compact and  easily transportable.

Rollo Wireless Thermal Printer

The major difference between Rollo USB and Rollo Wireless is the fact that you can send a label to the printer via Wi-Fi from any device. This means you can have your printer in a different room and not have to worry about plugging it in to print. It is an AirPrint Certified printer which means you do not need to install any drivers to use it.

This printer works with Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, Chromebook, and Linux. It also can produce one label per second. Our customers are loving the portability and the fact you can print without having to plug in. Also, this printer will automatically update itself without downloading or plugging into a computer.

Are Thermal Printers Worth It?

If you are looking for an easy solution to your shipping or product label needs, a thermal printer is your answer.

While they do not have the same capability as an inkjet, they cost significantly less to maintain than a traditional printer. You may have to spend a little more upfront to purchase a thermal printer, but they are well worth it.