What Is A Thermal Printer And How Does It Work?

Usually people do not consider printers to be attractive gadgets. People find these devices boring and prone to a variety of problems.

 In addition, printers need printing powder or ink to perform their tasks. 

But did you know that there are printers that do not require any ink? Yes, we mean a thermal printer.

You may have encountered and worked with these types of devices in your daily life. Such printers are more commonly used in businesses. Of course, there are more affordable versions of this type of device. The technology used in these printers is very interesting and can be useful for you as well.

What is the meaning of thermal printer?

There are different types of printers, but in general, their operation is based on ink or powder. Thermal printers do not use such materials. In these printers, nothing is spilled on the paper, but it is the paper itself that makes the image appear. On regular printers, when the ink or powder cartridge is empty, it must be recharged. But since thermal printers do not use any materials for printing, the only thing you need to replace is paper. Because of this, these devices are easier to use and will also cost the user less.

Thermal printers are everywhere around us. These machines are used to print airline tickets, purchase receipts, shipping labels, banknotes, and more. Many fax machines in the 1990s used thermal printing technology, but later this technology was replaced by laser printing or inkjet printers.

Because these devices are compact, easy to move, fast, clean, and less expensive, it is only natural for businesses to be happy with them. So if you see labels printing very fast somewhere, then you know that thermal printers are involved.

How thermal printers work

In general, there are two types of thermal printers: direct thermal and heat transfer. In this article, we intend to focus more on the direct thermal type. Heat transfer printers use ink in the form of ribbons (rolls of ink-coated materials). In these printers, the ribbon is heated in certain places and then the melted ink is poured onto the paper. Direct thermal printers, on the other hand, do not require any ink or powder.

Thermal printer

A direct heat printer has a heat head that generates heat. This heat head heats the special paper in certain places while moving.

 Each point that heats up will also appear at that point in the specified color.

Since colors are present in the paper itself, the print quality can also be somewhat limited. Most thermal papers are black only. For this reason, these papers are suitable for simple purposes such as receipts and scheduling books. It should also be noted that printed items will be deleted after a while, so this technology is not suitable for long-term projects.

Thermal printer

One of the exceptions in this regard is ZINK technology, whose full name is Zero INK. Like other direct thermal printers, ZINK printers use thermal paper. However, ZINK paper has several heat-sensitive layers with turquoise, purple, and yellow colors.

By precisely controlling the temperature and length of the heat pulses, ZINK printers try to transfer heat to different layers to display different colors. Rapid and short application of intense heat causes yellow to appear, prolonged application of weak heat causes turquoise to appear, and now that pixel also turns green.

Another factor that affects quality is the DPI (or point per inch) accuracy of the heat head. The more points that can be heated in the printer head, the higher the print resolution. A typical thermal printer has a DPI of about 200 to 300. A ZINK printer, on the other hand, can achieve much higher numbers.

Can a thermal printer be made for personal use?

Thermal printer

Thermal printers are not just for business use. Although these devices are mostly used by companies, in any case, like many other gadgets, there is a version for ordinary users of these devices. Most of these printers are used to create labels, but there are other uses for them.

A brand called Phomemo has introduced small thermal printers that can be connected to a phone or tablet via Bluetooth. There are also printers that use yellow adhesive thermal paper. Such printers can be used to print shopping lists, to-do lists, and puzzles.

The Zink printers we mentioned earlier are as expensive as Phomemo printers, but naturally the paper they use is a bit more expensive. These printers are suitable for printing a color image from a mobile phone.

Will thermal printers replace laser or inkjet printers in the future? Probably not, but they can be used for specific purposes. The thermal printer does not require a ink cartridge or powder. With these printers, you can continue printing as long as you have paper.