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Introduction to Large Format Thermal Printers

To provide comprehensive digital printing services in the sign industry, you will need two types of large format digital printers for your printing business. You need these printers to create different kinds of work or a variety of solutions.

There are two types of printers; Thermal Transfer/Thermal Resin and Inkjet. Each one of them has specialized capabilities and applications.

Thermal transfer printing is a digital printing method where you apply a coating of ribbon to a paper so that it stays glued to the material you print.

What types of thermal transfer printers are there?

  • Direct thermal - It prints the image by burning dots onto coated paper as it passes over the heated printhead. It doesn't use ribbons.
  • Thermal wax transfer - It uses thermal transfer ribbon, which contains wax-based ink. It applies heat to the ribbon using the thermal printhead that then melts the ink transferring it to paper where it becomes permanent when it cools.

The cost of thermal printer varies based on the size of printer and features included. The cost of consumables include ribbons, paper, and printheads. These costs are about the same for both types. The quality of your work will depend on the ribbons, thermal paper, printer, and the environment such as where the printer is stored, humidity, and temperature.

What are the benefits and capabilities of a thermal printer?

  • Use resin ribbons instead of toxic inks and produce no fumes - You don't need a costly ventilation and your lungs will remain healthy.
  • They have a long life. They can stay up to 5 years outdoors without lamination. You will only require lamination in extreme cases such as in industries where chemicals are involved.
  • They have spot color ribbons for vivid and bright colors.
  • They produce sharp text on small prints and are good for vector graphics.
  • They come with white ribbons. They're useful for printing white on a colored background or double-sided printing on clear media.
  • They can print a perforated pattern for producing window films on a clear media
  • They require less maintenance. They can stand idly indefinitely, without weekly maintenance.

How does a thermal printer work?

The printhead is the main functional component of a thermal transfer printer. It's made of tiny heating pins, each pin represents a single pixel.

Wax or resin-based ink is the key material thermal transfer printers use. You load wax into the printer, applying a thin layer to a backing of a polyester film.

The microprocessor controls the printhead, which determines which heating pins need to be activated in order to form a specific image. Signals are then sent to the selected pins, causing them to rapidly heat and cool against the ink ribbon, melting and transferring ink off of its backing film and onto the blank label surface.