Finding the right printer for you: Thermal printers

by Reads (3,680)

Need help deciding on what type of printer fits your needs? has a new series, “Finding the right printer for you.”  Building on our handy guide of the same title, will feature a different style of printer each week for the rest of December.

This week we will be taking a closer look at thermal printers.

All about Thermal Printers
A thermal printer uses a thermal print head to bring out images on heat sensitive, thermochromic paper.  Thermochromic paper, often referred to as thermal paper, is loaded with a special dye that changes color when exposed to heat.   So with a thermal printer there is no liquid or solid ink – the printer simply heats the paper to produce images.

Dye sublimation or thermal transfer printing can be confused with thermal printers.  The difference is dye sub/thermal transfer printers use heat sensitive ribbons to produce images as opposed to heat sensitive paper. 

This technology was often used in fax machines and is still very available in the form of receipt, point of sale (POS) and mobile printers because of the lack of ink, the ability to employ the technology in very small, compact devices and low long term costs.  You’ll see thermal printing used in ATM’s, grocery stores, law enforcement tickets, etc.

One of the problems for thermal printers is that the dye on the thermal paper often smudges after it first prints and can leave a black coating on your finger tips.  However, some thermal paper now uses a topcoat to prevent smudging and fading.

It is also a monochrome technology – there are no color models available although there is a new color technology released by Zink Imaging similar to the technology used in thermal printers that I discuss in the Inkless printer article.

Major Brands

There are several manufacturers that use the technology in POS, receipt and mobile printers.


We are constantly receiving new review units so keep checking back.

Thermal printers aren’t found in many homes or office environments because thermal paper is very one dimensional; lacking in color and professional quality prints. 

But they are useful if you are a constant traveler who needs to do business on the road or you own a business that needs to print receipts for purchases, tickets, etc.



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