You see thermal based printing everywhere, but the most common ones are those attached to cashier’s tills – they’re the printer which prints of your receipt. They’re used for printing tickets, price tags and usually have a far more practical commercial use than a consumer based personal one. However as with many things as the technology becomes better and better they start to have further practical applications for the travelling businessman or construction site manager who needs a genuinely portable printer to help him.
They work without ink cartridges which is why if you’ve ever worked with one they never seem to need touching. They’re both very compact and reliable – both due to the lack of moving parts which cannot be said of laser/inkjet printers. They’re also very lightweight and some of the printers you buy can weigh as little as 1 pounds and one of the highest I’ve seen is two pounds so in this respect they’re perfect for mobile printing.
Overall they’re very useful devices for mobility, but on the other hand they may not necessarily be perfect for everyone because as good as I’ve made thermal portable laptop printers sound they definitely have their drawbacks which I’ll tell you about below.
To start with they use thermal paper which is double the price of standard inkjet or laser printing paper, and so your running costs in regards to your paper are significantly higher. On the other hand this is to an extent offset by the fact that you don’t need to replace the ink cartridges because it works via an electric current heating up micro printing heads which ‘burn’ or color the paper.
The special paper costs more because it’s created with chemicals woven in between the fibers which rapidly reach their boiling point when heated, change color, and once the printing head has moved on they re-solidify retaining that color change. Most people tend not to understand how thermal mobile printers work but I feel it’s important to let people know.
The actual price of the device is also generally more expensive, but it’s quite hard to make general statements because the specifications and how old/new the product is obviously make a significant impact. But one of Brother’s latest printers which is the PocketJet 6 costs around 500 dollars, and by comparison the latest HP/Canon inkjet equivalents cost around 200 dollars – so it’s a pretty steep price increase.
You also have to realize that you’re paying for the mobility and ease of use, and the printer itself isn’t what you’d class as particularly well performing. Although the technology has improved you can still expect thermal portable printers which are also portable to print to much lower resolutions. You can expect from 200-300 dpi for black and white which is okay actually, but when it comes to color they print at the same dpi and that’s incredibly bad – even really cheap stationary printers can do much better hitting around 2-3000 dpi.
These types of portable thermal printer are very much for those who need serious work related printing, not those who want colorful graphical designs to impress clients. If you want something with the core functions of a stationary inkjet/laser printer then you’ll not be wanting a thermal-based design you’ll want one of the latest inkjet ones – there are no laser mobile printers as well, just to clear that up because people keep asking me and the simple response is they don’t actually exist. You may find there are a lot of thermal portable printer advantages which you did not know about.