Thermal printers are variants of printers that print using precisely calibrated heat produced by the printing head. There are two categories of thermal printers available - Direct thermal printers & Thermal transfer printers. Direct thermal printers, as their names indicate, print directly on to the media. The media or printing paper has a chemical layer that changes color with the heat of the printing head.


Thermal transfer printers use a ribbon that makes contact with the printhead and the media or printing paper. To create an image the print head's heat is "Transferred" through the ribbon melting the ink in the pattern generated by the printer. The ribbon usually consists of a plastic lining that is coated in ink on one side.


Thermal transfer ribbons can be coated inside or coated outside depending on the printer's make & model and the ribbon used. The ink is usually made of wax and/ or resin. Wax ribbons are suitable for printing on natural paper media. Resin blended ribbons are usually reserved for printing on synthetic media that is very smooth.


The higher the resin content, the more smudge-resistant the printed media will be. Since both printers rely on precise temperatures to create an image, both print technologies are affected by very cold conditions. Direct thermal printers have an advantage when it comes to printing in cold conditions.


Since the print head makes contact directly with the media, it can tolerate temperatures a little colder than thermal transfer printers can. Direct thermal printers can work in temperatures in the low 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, thermal transfer printers may have print quality issues below the mid 40 degrees Fahrenheit temperature range.


Most thermal printers will give a low head temperature warning. If the temperatures are not below freezing levels, the printer will warm up at it starts printing. If the temperatures are below freezing levels, a space heater or portable warming lamp can be placed to cover the thermal printer's direction.


You do not want to place a heater too close to the printer or turn the heat too high because metal parts could concentrate the heat and do more harm than good. A distance of 4 - 6 feet away should suffice. Besides, a target temperature in the 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit would be right for cold weather days. Just warm enough is better than too warm.


If the thermal printer is being used in a refrigerated environment, a box can be created to maintain an environment for the printer separate from the refrigerated environment. If thermal printer print quality is essential in cold conditions, make sure to keep it in its normal operating temperature range.


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