Could you use a printer that doesn’t use ink or toner? In this video, you’ll learn about thermal printers and their unique printing process.
<< Previous Video: Inkjet Printer Maintenance Next: Thermal Printer Maintenance >>
A thermal printer doesn’t have any ink and it doesn’t use any toner. Instead it uses a special type of paper. And as that paper is sent through the printer, portions of the page are heated, and every place that is heated turns black.
It’s common to see these thermal printers used for things like receipts, which use this special paper. This printer is very quiet when it’s being used. The only moving parts are used to push the paper through the printer, and the actual printing process of heating the page doesn’t make any noise at all.
This paper, however, is very sensitive to any type of light and heat. Because we are heating the paper, if you were to leave this paper somewhere hot, like on the dashboard of your car, it would turn the entire page black. And because this is sensitive to light, you may find that the page tends to fade over time, so this would not be a printer that you would use to archive important pieces of information over a number of years.
You might also find that other chemicals might cause this image to fade. If you use clear tape on some thermal paper, you’ll find that the image will very quickly fade over time. Similar to a laser printer or an ink printer, a thermal printer will also pull paper through the printer using a feed assembly. there’s usually a small paper path on these receipt printers, for example.
The printer paper goes into the bottom of the printer, and then there is a roller feed that pulls the paper through the printer as it’s printing. Here’s a close up of the bar that holds that roller. You can see it’s designed to be replaced very easily. So if this roller happens to wear out, we can simply remove it and replace it with a new one.
This is the heating element that’s inside of my thermal printer. You can see the labels that are passing through the printer, and the entire length of that label is covered by that heating element. As the paper is going by, the heating element is only heating parts of the element at any particular time, allowing you to print very quickly. Here’s a close up shot of the heating element and the information that has been printed as the paper is going by.
Although the thermal paper looks like it’s just a normal roll of paper, this is actually a special kind of paper that has been treated with a chemical that changes color when it’s heated. It’s very common to see this type of paper being used for receipt printers, or credit card terminals, or anywhere else where you need a very, very quiet printing process. Since this is specialized paper, you need to make sure that the paper you’re getting is specific for the printer that you’re using. And, of course, different thermal printers are using different sizes of paper as well. So make sure that your thermal paper is matching the model of the printer that you’re using.