Blog by:  Greg Shaw

Wikipedia Says:

A thermal printer (or direct thermal printer) produces a printed image by selectively heating coated thermochromic paper, or thermal paper as it is commonly known, when the paper passes over the thermal print head. The coating turns black in the areas where it is heated, producing an image. Two-color direct thermal printers can print both black and an additional color (often red) by applying heat at two different temperatures.

Thermal transfer printing is a related method that uses a heat-sensitive ribbon instead of heat-sensitive paper.

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A thermal printer comprises these key components:

  • Thermal head — generates heat; prints on paper
  • Platen — a rubber roller that feeds paper
  • Spring — applies pressure to the thermal head, causing it to contact the thermo-sensitive paper
  • Controller boards — for controlling the mechanism

In order to print, thermo-sensitive paper is inserted between the thermal head and the platen. The printer sends an electrical current to the heating elements of the thermal head, which generate heat. The heat activates the thermo-sensitive coloring layer of the thermo-sensitive paper, which changes color where heated. Such a printing mechanism is known as a thermal system or direct system. The heating elements are usually arranged as a matrix of small closely-spaced dots—thermal printers are actually dot-matrix printers, though they are not so called.

The paper is impregnated with a solid-state mixture of a dye and a suitable matrix; a combination of a fluoran leuco dye and an octadecylphosphonic acid is an example. When the matrix is heated above its melting point, the dye reacts with the acid, shifts to its colored form, and the changed form is then conserved in metastable state when the matrix solidifies back quickly enough.

Controller boards are embedded with firmware to manage the thermal printer mechanisms. The Firmware can manage multiple bar code types, graphics and logos. They enable the user to choose between different resident fonts (also including Asian fonts) and character sizes.

Controller boards can drive various sensors such as paper low, paper out, door open, top of form etc., and they are available with a variety of interfaces, such as RS-232, parallel, USB and wireless.

At Corporate Business Systems we see Thermal Printers being used for a variety of tasks such as palette labels to track inventory in large warehousing environments, for prescriptions being fulfilled at pharmacies in hospitals and health clinics, for Patient chart identification bar codes at the Admission desks in hospitals/clinics, bar coded labels for shipping at production facilities, etc…

Their uses are many, but one thing remains constant. There is a big reliance on these machines and when they go down or malfunction, it can have a negative impact on workflow and productivity.

Well, fear not my thermal printing friends! Corporate Business Systems has you covered! We offer service on a variety of Thermal Printers. Our Senior Service Technician Larry David is not only our Kyocera Training Tech, but he is also certified to provide technical support and service for many Thermal printers.

If you find yourself in need of service, whether it be routine maintenance or true break and fix for your Thermal printing devices, give us a call at and let us explain how we can help you as we have helped others.