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Thermal Printer How It Works?

Thermal Printer How It Works?

  • March 16,2015.

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 thermosensitive 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 thermosensitive 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 acidis 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 (a process known as thermochromism).


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 and so on, and they are available with a variety of interfaces, such as RS-232, parallel, USBand wireless. For point of sale application some boards can also control the cash drawer.

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