Thermal Label Printers: What Is the Difference?

The thermal printer market is highly competitive. The thermal printers provided by shipping services like UPS and FedEx to print shipment labels are by far the most common type. Despite popular belief, thermal printers are still limited to the free desktop models distributed by shipping firms. In fact, modern thermal printers are capable of performing a wide range of specialized printing tasks.

If there is a leader, who is he or she?

The distribution market is now led by Zebra Technologies, however there are several thermal printer manufacturers with superior features and lower prices. With the 1998 purchase of Eltron International, a California-based company, Zebra was able to significantly expand its market share. Both UPS and Federal Express relied on these compact printers, and Eltron held the contracts to provide them. Zebra's entry into the 'Desktop' printer industry and increased brand recognition among companies that ship via UPS and Fedex were both facilitated by this purchase. Already a dominant player in the desktop printer market, Zebra was able to set the standard for its industry. High-volume printing operations call for the use of larger printers, such as those found on tables.

If anyone can do it, who can it be?

Our company, Source Technologies, is relatively new to the industry. They have a line of desktop printers that is both cutting-edge and affordable. Source Technologies' printers contain features including a touch screen control panel, active print head cooling, automatic print head pressure control, an integrated ethernet adapter, and single label calibration, and their prices start around that of the industry's low to mid-end tabletop printers. Also, Source Technologies is the pioneering business to adopt PCL-5, the industry standard printer control language. Manufacturers of thermal printers typically employ in-house control languages. In order to print from a system like IBM's AS400, this often necessitates the creation of specialized forms. This takes more longer than it should because the programmer has to study the printer's language before entering the label formats. Given that PCL-5 is the de facto standard for controlling modern laser printers, it is assumed that most programmers will be conversant with it.

For home use, who makes the best thermal "Desktop" printer?

Datamax-Oneil introduced their E-class Mark3 thermal printer series last year. These printers can process the labels and print them out at speeds that are competitive with tabletop printers, and they can print at a quicker rate in terms of inches per second. The E-class printer line is ideal for businesses that require a tiny form factor and rapidly printed labels, while Datamax still has work to do in fine tuning the firmware to eliminate certain "Glitchy" behavior.

Where do we stand with automated thermal printing?

In the realm of automation systems, nearly all of the main thermal printer manufacturers provide a selection of printers. These printers are pricey and overengineered, in my opinion. Vanomation, a firm based in Southern California, has developed the LPA1000 print and apply system with the use of a Printronix T5000 series thermal printer. Besides a few minor firmware tweaks, this printer is identical to commercially available T5000 models. Making use of a commodity that already exists in the market reduces the overall cost of implementing an automated thermal printing system.

So, what else can we say?

Several companies make thermal printers. Thermal printers are a staple in the office, and both Sato America and Avery Dennison have extensive product lines to meet the needs of any business that uses them. A good printer is often dependent on the task at hand. There is no universal printer available from any manufacturer. Contact me at Progressive Label or LA Barcode Label to learn more about label printing.

Information for this article was collected from: Printers for postage labels