All You Need to Know About Thermal Label Printers

Thermal printers have been around for the longest time in the eCommerce business. They are used widely in businesses around the globe to perform a broad range of printing tasks on paper and other materials. Thermal printers have received a positive reception in the industry because of their low-cost, efficiency, high-quality outcome, and speed. For many, thermal printers have become the go-to solution for printing Amazon shipping labels among other printing needs. Here is everything you need to know about them. 

How do thermal printers work?

In a nutshell, thermal printing utilizes heat to duplicate an image into a specific material. Thermal label printers work like standard printers. However, the only difference is that rather than using ink, a thermal label printer uses special media such as label rolls that are reactive to heat. A thermal printer has three parts namely; thermal head, platen, and spring. The thermal head is responsible for generating heat and printing on paper while the platen feeds paper. The spring presses the thermal head so that it contacts the thermal paper to generate an image.

Thermal printers do not use ribbons and cartridges making them both fast and cost-effective. Thermal printers came to be following the invention of the thermal print head in 1965. The first thermal print system was referred to as the Silent 700 and was launched in 1969. Since then, thermal printers have been modified to become state-of-the-art printers.

Benefits of thermal label printers

  • Lightning-fast printing speed: forget the many seconds an ink printer takes to engrave ink on a paper physically. Thermal label printers are extremely fast allowing for faster shipping label printing, more customers to be served, and increased volume of goods to be sold.
  • Cost effective: with thermal label printers, you forget about ink and replacing the ink cartridges and printing ribbons. Also, since thermal printers have few moving parts, they do not break down easily and thus cutting maintenance and repair costs. This means a reduction in operating expenses.
  • High-quality image: unlike conventional printers where you get ink smudges or faded images when ink is running low, thermal label printers produce clear and long-lasting images.
  • Support a broad range of media: thermal printers are not limited to labels, they can print on receipt papers, plastic, and composite materials.
  • Minimize waste: thermal printing is a great alternative for reducing the waste caused by traditional printers.


Thermal label printers can be used in retail stores, filling stations, kiosks, hospitals, labs, and offices. Many organizations purchase thermal label printing for one task; shipping, or product labelling. This article is an eye-opener for organizations on the numerous ways they can use thermal label printers to improve business operations, maintain productivity, and cut costs. Below are several uses of thermal label printers.

1. Shipping Labelling

There's a growing trend towards using thermal printers for shipping labelling. Delivery services gurus such as UPS and FedEx are leading the way with this trend. The main reasons for the use of thermal printers for shipping labelling are the ease of use and cost-effectiveness.

Unfortunately, many businesses have not adopted this trend. They do not know that their thermal label printers can be used in their shipping process. Whether you are indicating package contents or address information, a thermal label printer can do it well. Direct thermal labels are best for shipping labelling because they only have to withstand a limited period –may be a couple of weeks- during delivery. Their output is high-quality and easy to scan and importantly, low cost.

Amazon is a prime example of a retailer that uses thermal printers for shipping labelling. Notably, Amazon's fulfillment centers are barcode-driven. When you send an item to an Amazon fulfillment center, it needs a barcode for tracking purposes in the fulfillment process. If your item has a manufacturer's barcode, you are good to go. If your item does not use the manufacturer's code, it requires an Amazon barcode. Sellers can print Amazon barcodes in their accounts and append them to products themselves. The recommended printers for barcodes are thermal printers for their high resolution and image quality. The FBA Label Service is available for sellers who do not want to apply the barcodes themselves at a cost. Thermal printers too are used for this task. Thermal printers have become an FBA standard for printing labels. Why?

  • FBA requires that shipping labels are legible for 24 months. This is only possible with thermal printers that offer durable labels that do not smudge or fade. Thermal printers' labels can withstand harsh environmental conditions for more than the time Amazon stipulates.
  • Thermal printers produce high-quality and clear labels. FBA requires labels that are clear and quality for easy reading and scanning. Traditional printers are more susceptible to smearing and blurry images that hinder scanning and reading.

2. Product Labelling

Businesses use thermal label printers for product labelling. Although barcodes are the most popular tools for product labelling, thermal label printers can also be used to perform the task. You can use thermal label printers to print many kinds of labels ranging from product ids to ingredient list, expiration dates and special warnings on your products. The thermal printer can not only print labels for products but also product cases and cartons.

3. Asset Labelling

Many companies struggle with asset tracking and lack a mechanism to manage their assets properly. Whether a business wants to track its computers, scanners, or machinery, thermal label printers are a great solution. The major advantage of thermal label printers for asset labelling is that they can print on distinct materials beyond standard paper. The first step in labelling assets is to devise individual ids for every asset and then label each item individually. If need be, you can also print the location of the particular asset for easy tracing.

4. Visitor ID Labelling

In the contemporary world, security is a major concern for all enterprises both big and small. Organizations receive visitors regularly, and it is important to identify and track them to promote organizational security. You can use thermal label printers to create disposable ids for visitors. Thermal printed labels are low-cost and easy and quick to make. Also, they enhance security because they streamline the check-in process and include expiration time and date. Thermal printed visitor labels are better than plastic ids which are costly, and handwritten labels which are vulnerable to forging. When printing visitor ids, direct thermal labels are used, and no ribbon is required. 

5. Receipt Printing

Did you know that you can use a thermal label printer for both your labelling and receipt printing needs? By changing from a label roll to a continuous paper roll, you can print receipts from your thermal printer. Thermal label printers have an added advantage for receipt printing because you have more size options. A receipt-only printer has a print width of 3" while a thermal label printer has a print width of 4". This means that with a thermal label printer, you use less paper by fitting more information on the added inch.   

6. Library Labels

Thermal label printers have reached the education sector, and libraries are using them to print book labels. In the past, libraries solicited for a means of printing attractive, legible, strong labels for their books unsuccessfully. Most of the available methods were unsatisfactory and failed to accomplish this goal. Most traditional labeling methods were flawed with many cases of faded labels, difficult to read fonts and peeling labels. Thermal printing is an affordable and effective way for printing library labels that are legible, attractive and long-lasting.  

7. Wristband Printing

Wristbands are common when visiting a hospital, attending a concert or company event or going to a water park. They identify people and enhance security. When companies need wristbands, they buy pre-made ones that are standard and not customized. In other cases, firms purchase wristband printers. If your company already has a thermal label printer, you don't have to do all these. Your thermal label printer can handle wristband printing in the same way it does labels. You can make unique and customizable wristbands by only changing the media and adjusting your design settings. 

Future Trends

As businesses continue to face internal and external pressure to increase efficiency and reduce costs, they are soliciting for ways to achieve the two goals. Thermal label printers offer enterprises many cost-saving, time-saving, and efficiency-promoting benefits making them a great option for firms. More retailers are moving beyond conventional printers to highly reliable and efficient thermal printers. Although the upfront cost of purchasing a thermal printer is a challenge for many companies, the long-term benefits are as clear as a thermal-printed image.

AZLabels is a company that helps sellers print labels efficiently. Prior to the establishment of AZLabels, companies that wanted to use thermal printers to print labels -whether shipping labels or box labels- spent much time manually converting labels into a format that is compatible with the thermal printer. AZLabels enables firms to print labels directly to their thermal printers and hence saving time.

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