What Thermal Printers are good for...
Thermal printers can produce small dots with spacing in the range of 200 to
300 dpi, which makes them comparable to low end laser printers in quality. Generally,
the vast majority of thermal printers are used in business for bar code label
applications. In this arena, thermal printers, unlike lasers and impact printers,
are almost always application specific. Thermal printers, with their narrow print
carriages (usually 4 to 8 inches), are compact - a strong advantage when space
is at a premium.
The thermal printer uses a horizontal array of many small heating elements
to melt "ink" from a ribbon, which moves in tandem with the label material
past a stationary print head. The print head transfers those dots to the label
material to form the image. Thermal printers can print very attractive labels
on a broad range of media, because of the wide variety of inks available. These
inks range from relatively inexpensive wax ribbons to high priced premium wax
and resin ribbons. However, virtually all these ribbons are one pass. That raises
the cost per label, since the ribbon cannot be reused and only part of the ink
is used in printing. Using resin ribbons, images can be printed on some special
synthetic and plastic materials where the bond between the resin and the media
is caused by a chemical reaction. The tradeoff, of course, is cost. The exotic
and high durability inks are more expensive.
Another form of thermal technology is direct thermal printing. In direct thermal
printing, an image is formed by applying heat to specially treated paper, which
then changes color. No ribbon is required. While direct thermal images are not
as durable as thermal transfer images, direct thermal printing is often lower
in cost because there aren't any ribbon costs. Both types of thermal printers
are used almost exclusively for bar code label printing and are particularly well
suited for on-demand applications, where the labels are removed and applied one
at a time at the printing location. Typically, the thermal transfer printers are
preferred for high quality labels.
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This article is the last one of our printers' series. Looking forward to
see you with a new topic...