Thermal printers use heat to mark text on special thermal paper. They’re used in many point-of-sale systems and kiosks. Mike describes the features of thermal printers and what techs need to know to maintain and service the machines.
- Thermal printers are the unsung heroes of the printing world. Anybody who's ever got a sales receipt from a point-of-sales system has probably enjoyed the benefits of a thermal printer. Thermal printers work through a very simple mechanism. What we have is paper that is thermally-sensitive. Wherever you hit it with heat, it changes colors. That's all there is to it. So a thermal printer is really only going to have two parts to it. It's going to have some kind of feed mechanism that keeps the paper moving up, and then it's going to have a heating element which can actually, it's got zillions of little spots on it and it will put little spots of heat onto the paper, and the paper turns black or blue, and there you go. Thermal printers have a few benefits. One of the things that we could run into with those is, number one, a lot of times you'll see multi-part forms. What you're looking at is usually a white sheet and a yellow sheet, and they're both thermally-sensitive, so that could be very convenient for a customer copy and a store copy kind of situation. But the downside is that this thermal paper is sensitive to heat. If I leave this paper in a hot room, it will turn blue or black on me, so that's a problem. Even pressing my thumb against it for even a few moments is going to actually make it change color, so we would never use thermal paper as a long-term solution, because it's just going to change over time. We want to avoid that. So printing on it's pretty straightforward. So let's see if I can get this to actually print. Hey, fantastic. So we've got a nice little print job. Now obviously with the format and things like this, you're going to be very limited in terms of the output you can generate. Most of these thermal printers are reduced to nothing more than text. But boy, do they do a wonderful job, particularly when it comes to point-of-sale. The big issue you're going to run into with these thermal printers in terms of maintenance is, number one, you end up replacing the paper a lot. They don't like giving really big rolls, simply because they're so sensitive to temperature. I'll bet everybody watching this has stood at a point-of-sales system while somebody was to say, ooh, wait a minute, I got to change out the paper on the register. The other one is that the heating element will pick up dander over time. So in that situation, usually what we do is we use a plain white cloth and we wipe down the heating element. It's not very hard to do, depends on the device, and you probably wouldn't want to use your finger normally, but it won't hurt. And you could just wipe it down, and you've done all the cleaning you need to do. And the other thing to be careful about is debris. These things generate an amazing amount of paper dander. And the only thing you're going to be able to do is every now and then, usually every six months to a year, you go through and you use your air gun, and you air these things out and get out an incredibly large amount of paper dander for a printer so incredibly small. So next time you're buying something and you're at a point-of-sales system, and somebody hands you a little something like that, think about how hard-working these little printers are and how rarely we actually recognize what they do. (upbeat jazz music)
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