Thermal Printing Is Not About Embossing Your Long Underwear
What is Thermal Printing?
What is thermal printing and can I wear it under my snowsuit?
No. You may not wear a thermal print under your snowsuit and it has nothing to do with thermal underwear. Thermal printing, or thermal imaging is a style of printing that uses heat to create images, unlike conventional liquid ink nozzle or dot matrix style printers which are noisier and messier. Which explains why Astronaut N. Jan Davis wasn't full of indigo ink while reading her emails from Earth while aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.
Chances are you've probably been using thermal printers for years and not known it.
Thermal label printing, for example is widely used at hospitals and retail stores because of the ease of use, and once again, no messy nozzles! There are also many faxes that use thermal printing. Specifically, the thermal printers without nozzles are called Direct Thermal Printers. They use a specially modified paper, that reacts with a heat strip in the printer. These thermal images are reactive to heat and sunlight and therefore only last a short while. So practical applications for this type of printer are only meant for short term use, i.e. your Dunkin Donuts receipt, your plasma donation label, what have you. Eltron labels or what are now called Zebra labels are a common use for Direct Thermal Transfer, as seen on bar code labels used just about everywhere.
Thermal Transfer Printers use ink from a ribbon in order to create a more durable final print, such as an ultrasound print out from a hospital. Applications for thermal transfer prints of this type are meant to last longer than direct thermal prints, while still avoiding those messy ink nozzles again.
An example of a Zebra Printer
More About Thermal Printing
Thermal Printing is one of those miracles of engineering and science that people take for granted. In order for a thermal print to work, an electrical current shoots to a heating resistor on a thermal head in whatever design or pattern the computer tells it to print. The thermal paper is a fascinating solid-state mix of acids and dyes that react to create a predictable color pattern according to heat variations! Amazing stuff!
Other applications for this futuristic technology called thermal printing include fill up station pumps, point of sales receipts, shopping mall kiosks, ATM machines, and good old voucher printers in slot machines! There are also thermal printers specifically made for cds and dvds. These cd and dvd thermal printers boast indelible prints at lower costs than traditional printing. There are also desktop thermal printers, but they are up against the ingrained dot matrix print market. So although thermal printers are many times quieter than traditional printers, they may have a difficult time usurping the market.
Thermal printing is an industrial solution and technological marvel to be sure. Look for advancements and upgrades in thermal printing and imaging in the future!
If you enjoyed this thermal print article, you might also enjoy this piece about a new type of digital imaging for your laptop!
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