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Thermal printers

Thermal printing uses heat to put a print on paper or label. You can use thermal printers to produce receipts, product labels or shipping labels. There are two types of techniques. There can be heat-based printing or ribbon-based printing. The latter is often used when making barcodes. The heat-based technique is frequently used for receipts, for example.

What is a thermal printer?

The thermal print head is the basis of any thermal printer. The thermal print head provides the print on a label or directly on the packaging (film). The most commonly used printers in the food industry are thermal printers. Thermal printers are very widely used in the food industry. Thermal print heads are print heads that print without ink or toner. The print heads can only print directly on thermal material or through an ink ribbon on various materials. The ink ribbon is also called ThermoTransfer Ribbon or Ribbon, abbreviated TTR.

Operation of a thermal printer

The thermal printer can be divided into two main groups:

  1. Thermal Transfer Printing that prints directly on the label (Label) (DT method):
    This pushes the hot print head directly onto the label, with a heat-sensitive coating on top. Due to the heating elements in the print head, the label heats up, which activates the coating and creates a black print on the label (so no ink or Ribbon is needed). These types of printers are often applied ''Off Line'' and then automatically applied to the packaging as a pre-printed label.
  2. Thermische Transfer Printen met printlint (lint, TT(R) methode):
    This pushes the hot print head on a ribbon, containing the ink, against the material to be printed. The heating elements in the print head cause the ink to fuse at the desired locations on the substrate, creating the specified coding. Thus, there is direct contact between the print head, the Thermal Transfer ribbon and the substrate to be printed. These types of printers are also often used ''In Line'' apart from on NOT heat-sensitive labels, printing directly on the film or packaging.

Spare parts for thermal printers:

Types of printheads:

The printhead variants are distinguished by the placement of the heating elements:

  1. Flat-Head printheads:
    Here the heating elements are located at a distance of a few millimeters from the edge of the carrier plate. The print ribbon and print medium run parallel for a short time and are separated in a delayed manner. These print heads are especially suitable for printing rolls.
  2. True-edge printheads:
    Here the heating elements are not located on the carrier plate, but on the thin head side. These printheads can be adjusted in height and are therefore particularly suitable for printing on hard materials.
  3. Near-Edge-Printkoppen:
    Here, the heating elements are located directly at the edge of the carrier plate and the print head is at an angle. The print ribbon and the print medium are separated more quickly, which increases the demands on the print ribbons. However, higher print speeds can be achieved with these than with flat-head printheads.

Factors thermal printhead lifetime

There are several factors that affect the life of a printhead:

  • Manner of assembly;
  • Way of cleaning;
  • Temperature foils/labels;
  • Accumulation of dust;
  • Quality print ribbon;
  • Ambient temperature;
  • Hygiene environment.