The initial expense involved with the upkeep and maintenance of any printer is making sure it has a sufficient amount of ink. When dealing with commercial printers, receipt printers in particular, the constant use of the machine has always meant the need for being able to print consistently for long periods. An ingenious solution to this problem is making a type of paper that has a built-in solution to this issue. This is where thermal paper comes into play.
Thermal paper is designed to eliminate the need to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on ink cartridges over the lifespan of your printer. This paper is most commonly used for printing receipts, invoices, packing lists, and delivery documents.
Printers that use thermal paper do not require the use of any ink whatsoever. Here we will explain what thermal paper is and how it is used.
What is Thermal Paper?
Thermal paper is a heat-activated specialty paper that changes color when the heat is applied to it. This paper is created by using dyes and developers that are heat-sensitive.
During the manufacturing process, these dyes and developers are applied in varying ways, depending on the manufacturer. However, there are some processing similarities that all thermal papers share.
The thermal paper starts as a typical “base paper” made of wood pulp. The paper is then primed with a chemical known as the precoat.
The precoat fills any pores or spaces between the fibers of the paper. The precoat assures that the printing surface is smooth and even.
This chemical also absorbs and stabilizes the dyes once they are activated. The precoat also keeps the print head free from accumulating melted dye.
The chemical mixture that is applied as a topcoat is called the thermal coat. This coat is a mixture of chemicals that change colors when exposed to heat.
The thermal layer contains leuco dyes, sensitizers, and developers. The leuco dye contains clear crystals that turn black once the heat from the printer heads touch the paper.
The thermal mixture also contains either Bisphenol-A (BPA) or Bisphenol-B (BPS). These chemicals act as developers. Sensitizers are added to the thermal mix to adjust the image activation temperature of the coating.
Once the layers are applied to the paper, the paper is rolled into large rolls called jumbos. The jumbos are transferred to machines that cut them down to different sizes for wholesale and retail distribution.
What are the Different Types of Thermal Paper?
It is imperative to make sure you get the thermal paper that is right for your operation. While all thermal papers appear to be similar, the chemical mixtures of each type dictate the paper’s ability to resist heat, moisture, and other external variables.
The environment in which you will be using thermal paper dictates what kind of paper is needed.
The fact that thermal paper is heat-sensitive makes it vulnerable to light, heat, and other storage and environmental factors. These elements may ruin the paper if stored in adverse conditions for extended periods.
While all thermal paper appears to be the same, different chemical mixtures help protect the paper in various ways. Paper differs by helping to protect against abrasion, light, moisture, and heat.
There are several factors to consider when choosing the type of paper your operation requires.
Thermal paper that is stored in temperatures that exceed 140 degrees will likely be ruined. Most facilities are heat regulated and will not reach temperatures nearly as hot as this.
But, if the thermal paper is kept in hot vehicles, this can damage the paper and render it useless.
If this is a possibility for you, select a paper that has coatings that are intended to withstand excessive temperatures.
Thermal paper will generally not perform as it is intended to when exposed to moisture. This will often cause issues with being able to see the printed images on the paper.
If you are in a work environment that will expose your thermal paper to moisture, you should consider using a paper that is coated with a mixture that is resistant to moisture.
Thermal paper is measured in mils (each mil is equal to 1/1000th of an inch). The thicker the stock of thermal paper, the more durable it is.
The thicker paper also means that there is less paper in each roll. Keep this in mind when ordering thicker paper.
How Long Does Thermal Paper Last?
The life expectancy of thermal paper differs based on storage conditions. The following factors affect the lifespan of thermal paper:
Paper that is stored at temperatures below 77 degrees and kept in a dark place at relative humidity will last approximately three years from the date it was manufactured.
Once an image has been printed on thermal paper, the image will last at least seven years. This time estimation is based on the paper being stored at 77 degrees in a dark low, minimally humid environment.
The dye and co-reactant combination of thermal paper makes it sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light. If the printed paper is exposed to UV light (sunlight), the printed image may be compromised.
Exposure to UV light may also result in discoloration of the paper itself.
What is a Thermal Receipt Printer?
Thermal receipt printers are printers that use a process called direct thermal printing. These printers use thermal paper rolls and do not feature ink cartridges.
Instead, the image is printed using thermal print heads that burn the image on the thermal paper.
What are the Best Thermal Printers?
Depending on your thermal printing needs, there are a host of options that will serve you best.
Among these options are:
Star Micronics -thermal receipt printer that connects to a network via ethernet
Bixolon thermal printer: a thermal printer that works with Android, iOS, and Windows mobile devices
eHopper All-in-One POS – touchscreen POS unit with customer-facing screen and thermal printing
eHopper All-in-One Mini – small POS terminal with a built-in thermal printer
Elo PayPoint Plus: POS terminal that runs with iPad and features thermal printing
When looking for the right thermal paper and printer, there are a variety of things that must be considered.
Take note of the operational and storage environment before making a purchase. Keep in mind that thermal paper tends to be extremely sensitive to certain conditions.
Best Places to Buy Thermal Paper?
There are many choices and places to buy thermal paper. eHopper’s website offers the ability to buy thermal paper at an affordable price and, more importantly, that is compatible with printers integrated with the eHopper POS.