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Thermal Printing Is Not About Embossing Your Long Underwear

Updated on December 7, 2009

What is Thermal Printing?

August 1997) --- Astronaut N. Jan Davis, payload commander, looks at the mail from the Thermal Imaging Printing System (TIPS), on flight day four activities onboard the Space Shuttle Discovery:Thanks to NASAimages.org
August 1997) --- Astronaut N. Jan Davis, payload commander, looks at the mail from the Thermal Imaging Printing System (TIPS), on flight day four activities onboard the Space Shuttle Discovery:Thanks to NASAimages.org

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

Courtesy of:http://www.flickr.com/photos/jblyberg/ / CC BY 2.0
Courtesy of:http://www.flickr.com/photos/jblyberg/ / CC BY 2.0

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!

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    • Ben Zoltak profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Zoltak 

      8 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      LMAO! That's just great! I think Lotus' are edible too. Maybe you can fit a thong to the Lotus, more sexy? I had a feeling that wasn't an artichoke. LOL. I hope you are laughing with me H: !!! The contrast is excruciating! I tend to think with my stomach first, my unowat second and my mind third. Hehe.

    • Green Lotus profile image

      Hillary 

      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Hey it's a lotus, not an artichoke. Ok I think I have to work on a new avatar. Something sexy to attract viewers.

    • Ben Zoltak profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Zoltak 

      8 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Me too, especially long, or of the boxer short variety!

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 

      8 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      i like underwear

    • Ben Zoltak profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Zoltak 

      8 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      H: Lol!!! I bought an artichoke for the first time in my life because of your delicious looking avatar, now how to eat it, hmmm...

    • Green Lotus profile image

      Hillary 

      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      You know, Now I'll think of you every time I get a receipt.

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