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Thermal Label Printers buying guide

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Thermal Label Printers Guide - An Introduction

A thermal label printer is a thermal printer that prints on a self-adhesive label. Some label printers connect to a computer, and there are stand-alone models which do not require a computer. Thermal label printers are the most common type of printer mechanism for label printers. Thermal label printers require special devices to feed the paper, which is either tear-sheet or rolled stock.

Thermal label printers also use a wide variety of label materials, such as paper or synthetic polymer plastics. There are two main types of thermal label printers: Direct thermal and thermal transfer. Direct thermal label printers use heat-sensitive paper, much like thermal fax paper. These labels will fade over time, especially if they are exposed to heat or direct sunlight. Direct thermal labels are best used for labels that only need a short life, such as a shipping label. With thermal transfer label printers, heat is used to transfer ink from the ribbon onto the label to create a permanent print.

Thermal label printers are ideal for printing shipping and packaging labels, labels for storage boxes and files, or labelling items with your name. Avoid confusion about whose stapler it is, or label your children’s toy boxes to keep their contents organized.

Whatever uses you have for your thermal label printer, whether personal or business, Price Inspector will help you buy the best one for your needs. Our buying guide will make it easy to compare models and features. Also, our Inspectors always bring you the best deals, giving you the confidence that you’re getting the cheapest prices in the UK.

Types of Thermal Label Printers and Accessories

  • Commercial thermal laser printers usually hold larger rolls of label stock, such as up to 8 inches wide. They are more durable, designed for a medium printing volume.
  • Desktop thermal laser printers are quiet and inexpensive. They are meant for light or medium use, and they generally hold a roll of labels up to 4 inches wide.
  • Industrial thermal laser printers are the sturdiest option, meant for heavy volumes and continuous operation, such as in a distribution center, warehouse, or factory. There are also portable industrial thermal laser printers.While still designed for large volumes, they are portable for use where there aren’t any computers, such as construction sites or production floors.
  • Personal label printers are small handheld or desktop printers meant for home or small business use. They are inexpensive and very popular. In years past, these were impact printers, but now they are almost entirely electronic thermal laser printers. They feature a keyboard and display, and the integrated cartridge contains the print ribbon and label material.
  • Specialized thermal laser printers, called RFID readers, can print and encode RFID tags that are embedded in the paper or plastic. RFID tags also have printed information to allow humans to identify the tags with the bar code system. RFID tags and readers are useful for tracking inventory.
  • You can also buy a label printer applicator, which will help automate your labeling process. They are most common in warehouses and manufacturing facilities where pallets and cases are being labeled for shipping.
  • Label printing software is designed to run on your general purpose, personal computer. It will help you create or format your labels before printing. The software can either work with dedicated label printers, or they can let you print on sheets of labels in your standard printer.
    There are three types of ribbons used with thermal laser printers:
  • The most popular is wax, which is suitable for either matte or semi-gloss paper labels, and it offers some resistance to smudging.
  • A wax and resin combination has all the benefits of wax, but it is designed for semi-gloss paper and for some plastic labels.
  • Resin will resist scratching and chemical exposure, and it is ideal for coated plastic labels.

Popular Brands

There are many popular brands for thermal laser printers, including Toshiba, Star, Teac Corporation, Intermec, Wasp, and Hitachi. Other popular models include:

  • Seikos Smart Label Printer 450. This direct thermal laser printer lets you easily print labels one at a time. It doesn’t require toner, ink, or complicated software. Simply plug it into your PC or Mac computer with the built-in USB or Serial port, and it’s ready to print.
  • Brother PT-80. This battery operated personal label printer is easy to use, packed with features, and affordable. It has a 12 character display and can print 9 type styles and 6 sizes. It comes with 5 auto formats, printing up to 2 lines with 71 symbols.
  • The Printronix ThermaLine industrial printer. This is a direct thermal and thermal transfer label printer designed for industrial use with a rugged metal design. It is designed to maximize your productivity, and it can grow with your changing requirements. Its graphical interface is user friendly, offering a unique icon menu for easy installation and configuration. It is a perfect print solution for small or medium printing such as distribution, shipping/receiving, manufacturing, and product identification.
  • Epsons TM-L90. This thermal laser printer connects to your computer through a USB port, and it comes with label software to make formatting your labels easy. It can print both labels and receipts, making it versatile for small business use. It comes in either cool white or dark gray, and it can print in two colours.

Tips to consider before buying Thermal Label Printers

  • If printing speed is your main concern, make sure you are buying a quick thermal label printer. As with any printer, print speeds vary dramatically between models.
  • Consider how you want to connect your thermal laser printer to your computer. Some have USB connections, while some offer Ethernet connections. There are also wireless, Bluetooth, parallel, and serial port connections available.
  • If you are printing on continuous label stock, thermal laser printers have a tendency to shift the print location slightly from one label to the next. To ensure the print area is registered correctly, many thermal laser printers include a sensor that will detect a gap, perforation, notch, or line. This will allow the printer to adjust the stock so the printing will be correctly aligned. If precise printing is a concern, make sure your thermal laser printer has this feature.
  • If you need long-lasting labels, you don’t want a direct thermal print label. These will only last for a few months, so they should be reserved for short-term uses like mailing labels. A thermal transfer printer will give you longer-lasting labels for uses like labeling storage boxes.
  • Determine your standard volume of printing to decide whether you need a thermal laser printer meant for light, medium, or heavy volumes. You will save money by buying the right printer for your volume, even if it is more expensive initially. Buying too heavy of a printer wastes money up front, but buying too light of a printer wastes money because it will have to be repaired or replaced sooner than anticipated.
  • Consider whether you want a handheld, stand-alone, or computer-driven label printer. Also, do you need network connectivity to allow more than one computer to access the printer?
  • For a handheld or stand-alone printer, look for on-screen features like an LCD display. This will show exactly how your label will print, helping you avoid any errors.

Jargon Explained

BluetoothA type of wireless connection that allows common devices like personal label printers or mobile phones to communicate.
USB, parallel, and serial portsComputer connection ports for connecting external devices such as a thermal laser printer.
RFIDRadio Frequency Identification. This technology involves a tag and a reader to identify and track a product using radio waves.

Buying Guide to Thermal Label Printers
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