How does a thermal printer work? – Printer Wiki

Last Updated on November 25, 2022

Thermal printers have become increasingly popular, and getting one without knowing about the device is an absolute no-no according to professionals and experts. Choosing a product that meets your needs and wants depends most on the research you conduct.

Thermal printers are literally enabling so many crafters, organizations and factories to survive. You get almost everything you want or even think of from this printer. A heated print head, unlike others, creates images with extraordinary quality.

Thermal printers’ high-quality print is what people rave about. So, I decided to get my hands on knowing about it. To see how it works, what’s new in this and all the questions that you can think of. After a while, I am here back on the screen to write about thermal printers and how this works. So, better let’s begin with it now.

What is a thermal printer? – Introduction 

The term “thermal printer” refers to the type of printer that is making rounds on the internet now a days all because of its technology. In this, it uses heat to print black text or images against a medium. Moreover, concerning their use, they are frequently used to create the following:

  • Tagging
  • Vouchers
  • Barcodes
  • ID badges, and many more uses.

Meanwhile, they work quite efficiently and we still have a lot more to discuss and know. So, let’s move to the next question.

what is a thermal Printer

How does a thermal printer work?

Basically, the use of a heated ribbon in thermal transfer printing results in graphics that are robust and long-lasting. Prints produced with this method are renowned for being extremely robust and smear-resistant. As a result, thermal printers have gained popularity for creating durable labels and easily scannable barcodes, as well as for printing name badges, wristbands, tickets, and other types of identification.

Older kinds of thermal printers use rolls of heat-sensitive paper that are inserted into a container inside the device, and the end of the roll is pressed into a slot. The image is transferred to the sheet by the pigments when the machine’s heat-sensitive paper reacts with it.

Moving on, there are two types of thermal printers that you must know about to understand the working of a thermal printer.

These two include the following:

  • Direct thermal printing
  • Thermal transfer printing

Direct thermal printing

Direct thermal printing does not require ribbons, inks, or toners. Rather, the printer applies pressure and heat directly to the surface of the heat-sensitive thermal paper. Fundamentally, in this process, the heat from the printhead causes the thermal paper to blacken and create an image or text.

Going a bit further when we discuss maintenance, direct thermal printers have lower maintenance expenses than other printer types because no ink or toner is required. However, as was already said, since thermal paper is so susceptible to heat and light, there is a risk that your printed materials will eventually start to fade.

Thermal transfer printing

Onto our second type, thermal transfer printing, there is no need or use of a ribbon, toner, or ink. Here, a fundamental incidence takes place where the ink is moved to the printing medium and perform there, melting the wax in the process.

Moving on, the main benefit of this kind of thermal printer is that you can print in multiple colors simultaneously, and prints are far less prone to fading over time. However, long-term maintenance expenses may increase with the addition of the ribbon, which needs to be changed.

How to use a thermal printer? – Mini Guide 

The system may seem a little complicated, but the user guide is super easy and small, and even a beginner can easily get started with it. So here is a 3-step guide for you!

  • Go to the menu and first open “Settings.”
  • Navigate to “Update & Security” in the settings menu.
  • You can access additional updates in the Settings app or select “Download and Install” under the “Optional Updates” tab.

How to clean a thermal printer head?

Till now, we have discussed what it is and its use. Now, we have another section that we all need for the upkeep and cleaning of the machine. I love this part of owning a machine, and this guide will make it easy for you to clean it.

The majority of manufacturers advise cleaning the thermal printer’s print head each time the ribbon is changed. As the thermal print head is the costliest replacement component on a thermal printer, routine cleanings will help you avoid frequently replacing the thermal print head. So, let’s begin:

How to clean a thermal printer head

Step 01: 

First thing first, switch off the printer. Then, lift the print head, and this way, you will open the printer for cleaning.

Step 02: 

Pushing the lever will release the print head and make it simple to remove the ribbon. To see the print head, pull the ribbon away. After that, rub the isopropyl alcohol onto the lint-free cloth. You can also use this marker shown in the picture.

Step 03:

This step involves applying light pressure as you wipe the moistened portion of the cloth throughout the thermal print head. The carbon accumulation and ribbon dirt that could accumulate over time will essentially be removed. For optimal performance, give the print head just a few minutes to rest.

Step 04: 

The print head’s ribbon cable must now be changed. Put the print head gear back into position to make that happen so that the print head lever will restore to its initial setting.

Step 05:

Turn on the thermal printer and shut the print head access door. To check the thermal printer, print a banner or bar tag.

printing tag on thermal printer

How can the life of a thermal printer be extended?

Since we have talked about cleaning the print head, I would add here that if you are particular and concerned about the longevity of your thermal printer, first do regular cleaning. Cleaning and even deep cleaning the printer head increases the life of the printer by 3x.

Here are some tips for you:

  • Every time a roll of ribbon is used, clean the printhead thoroughly.
  • Use a soft cloth or an applicator with 90% isopropyl alcohol (IPA) to clean.
  • Always make sure your ribbon is at least as wide as the entire web of your label.
  • Ensure that the printhead is under as little tension as possible.

Final words

In order to transfer ink from a ribbon to a piece of tape, thermal transfer printers use a print head. A damaged printhead results in subpar prints. Meanwhile, it is the most expensive element of the printer to replace.

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