Thermal label printers are crucial to any retail business, large warehouse, or logistical operation. But with so many different types and models available for purchase, it can take time to decide what suits you.
In the transportation and logistics industry, having the right printer for your thermal printing needs can mean high throughout, increased productivity and low operation costs, allowing your supply chain to run efficiently and on time.
What is a Thermal Printer?
A thermal label printer uses heat to transfer images onto labels. They are most commonly used in industrial and commercial settings to print barcode labels, shipping labels, and important product identification labels. These printers work faster, more efficiently, and are more cost-effective than home printers, producing high-quality labels with precision and clarity.
They are available in a variety of different sizes and configurations. Furthermore, they can be used in a variety of settings, meaning you are never short of options when selecting your next printer.
How Do They Work?
Depending on the type of printer you have selected, thermal printing either uses a heating element to print on specially coated paper or a ribbon made from wax or resin-based ink, which melts onto a label. There are two types of printers from which to choose – direct thermal and thermal transfer, and each operates differently and is used for different purposes.
Direct thermal printing uses heat to print images onto paper. The paper is coated in a heat-sensitive material that reacts once the temperature is raised. This type of printing is primarily used for quick printing barcodes, labels and receipts. It is less permanent and has a short lifespan, generally starting to fade or become illegible within a year or exposure to elements. This printer does not use ribbons and is easy to operate.
A thermal transfer printer uses heat to melt ink from ribbons onto paper. In this case, the ribbon is made from a heat-sensitive material, which releases the ink when the temperature is raised. The amount of heat applied can be controlled, allowing for different ranges in colours and shades. The ribbons are available in different colours and variations, making them ideal for signage and identification tags. This type of printing is suitable for labels that need to be resistant to smudging, extreme temperatures, chemical damage, and abrasion.
Factors to Consider
When choosing the perfect thermal printer for your business needs, there are four main factors worth considering before making a purchase.
Easy Set-Up & Usage
Like with any machine you use in your own business or manage on behalf of your customers, having an option that is easy to set up and simple to use is very beneficial to increasing workflow and adding significant value to the overall supply chain.
In shipping and transport operations, having multiple printers or mobile printers is very common. With this increased workload, having a printer that works fast, is very reliable and requires minimal effort to work through error messages and issues will be a highly desirable purchase.
Furthermore, printers that are easy to set up and use can be moved around a busy warehouse and placed in temporary locations during peak seasons. Moving the printer closer to workstations will greatly increase efficiency and reduce the possibility of incorrect labels being placed on products.
One of the best design features of thermal printers is that they are made to be very durable. With the correct maintenance, you can extend its usability even further, reducing unnecessary breakdowns and creating a product well worth the investment.
While large-scale maintenance may need to be completed by the solutions provider, you can do many smaller jobs to keep it working at peak performance. When selecting the correct printer supplier, you will gain access to extensive knowledge and support that will guide you through the various maintenance steps you need to take and educate your staff to use, clean and operate the printers properly.
In logistical operations, productivity and speed are two of the most important factors when sticking to tight schedules and meeting strict deadlines. Printing labels at a fast pace with consistent efficiency and quality are what thermal printers do best.
While direct thermal printing is quicker than thermal transfer technology, the option you pick largely depends on your printing requirements and the industry you work in. But for high-speed and high-volume situations, an industrial model printer will perform the best and work out to be the most cost-effective option on the market.
Partner with Experience
As important as it is to buy a printer suitable for your business needs, it is equally important to create and build a relationship with a solutions provider that will assist you in maintaining your machines for optimum use, and go above and beyond to meet your needs and requirements.
Aside from poor handling or issues that arise, printers will be subjected to general wear and tear, which will typically require specific components to be replaced over time. It is best to turn to the supplier directly for these items to ensure they work correctly and don’t jeopardise the general operation of the printer.