Thermal Vs. Laser Printer

Thermal Vs. Laser Printer

Choosing a printer is a decision you need to make based on the requirements of your business, as well as the budget. There are so many brands and models with different features available that make the choice even more complicated.

Thermal printers print on thermal paper using heat, while laser printers use regular paper and toner. Although thermal printers are faster than laser printers, they tend to wear out quicker. The maintenance cost is higher with the laser printer, but they last longer and break less.

Based on this, you can create a general picture of the main differences between these two types of printers, but further on in this article, I will explain this in more detail, so you can have all the necessary information to make your final choice.

How Does a Thermal Printer Work?

The biggest difference between thermal and laser printers is with how they operate. Thermal printers are based on rather simple technology. Basically, they require the use of thermal paper – a paper that changes color when the heat is present in any form.

Usually, the printer head creates a pattern that needs to be printed and then by applying pressure and generating heat, prints the pattern on the thermal paper. Like this, you can easily print barcodes, letters, numbers, logos, etc.

For shipping labels, thermal printers are always the better option because they are very simple to use and maintain. However, there should be no issues if you want to use a laser printer as well.

How Does a Laser Printer Work?

On the other hand, laser technology printers are more complex but also used much more when compared to thermal printers. Laser printers are also very commonly used for homes and office needs.

They are using static electricity to charge the printer drum. Once the drum is charged, the laser takes turns and removes the electricity from the places that need to be printed on paper. 

After this, the toner is applied, and it only sticks to the places where the electricity is removed – where the laser was working. The drum then rolls onto the paper with a little bit of pressure so it can generate heat and stick the toner to the paper permanently.

Is a Thermal Printer More Expensive than the Laser One?

The initial cost for both types of printers would be more or less the same. You can find different brands, models, some of them may be more advanced or may offer different possibilities. These are all the facts that will affect the price. Your choice depends on the budget and specifications that you are looking for.

However, you need to bear in mind that buying a laser or thermal printer is not a one-time cost, but it requires it to be maintained and invested in during their lifetime of service.

Thermal printers are very easy to maintain, due to their simplicity. The only thing you need to worry about is the special thermal printing paper. This type of paper is slightly more expensive than regular paper, but if you buy it in bulk, you may get a good discount.

Also, when you consider that other than buying a paper you will not have any other big issues with the printer, then you can conclude that it is a good option.

On the other hand, because laser printers are much more complex, they do require to be properly maintained and taken care of. The biggest cost with the laser printers is not the paper but the toner cartridges themselves. They tend to wear out quickly and need to be replaced on time.

One big drawback for laser printers lies in the fact that the adhesive paper cannot be used in a combination with this type of printer. The only good fit for the laser printer is regular paper.

The glue on the back of adhesive sheets will melt into the printer, causing issues and malfunctioning. If you make this mistake, you will need to hire someone to professionally clean the printer before you continue with printing and jamming the printer. 

Thermal Printer Wins in a Speed Competition

If you are running production and you need printing labels to be printed out very fast, then the thermal printer is your ideal choice. Because they are of a simple design, they are capable of printing at a rate that is 5-6 times faster than the laser printing rate.

Thermal printers can be used as soon as they are turned on, while laser printers do require some time to warm up. This time is not noticeable if the scope of work you are running is not big. 

Anyways you need to choose the printer based on the requirements of your business. Large factories have thermal printers in 99% of the cases, while small businesses tend to go for laser printers instead. 

Laser Printer Has Longer Lifespan

Although the answer to this question can depend on many factors, mostly on the model and the brand of the printer you have chosen, there are also another two contributing factors to this matter.

Experience has shown that some models are made from more quality materials and are able to withstand much more during their lifespan than others. This solely depends on your budget and how much money you can spend on a printer.

It is always better to go for more expensive, well-known brands, rather than buying unreliable cheaper printers if your budget allows that.

In general, laser printers will last longer than thermal ones, and that is mostly the main reason why people decide to go for laser printers. However, you can prolong the life of your thermal printer as well if you maintain and clean it regularly.

The weak point of a thermal printer is its head – it is more sensitive than the motor itself, and you are more likely to experience issues with the head during the use of your printer. 

The issues with the head can be prevented with regular maintenance and cleaning, as well as with using a more quality thermal paper since the head is in contact with the paper all the time.

Another thing that can affect the duration of your printers, both thermal and laser ones, is the amount of workload. The more you use the printer, the faster it will wear out. And since the thermal printer is printing faster than the laser one, it will also wear out faster.

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