Handheld thermal printers become more and more important
Having largely captured the bulk of the custom retail and industrial printer market, thermal printers are making a big play for the handheld market. Thermal printers now dominate the fax, point-of-sale, bar-code, label and ticket markets because of their low cost, excellent print quality, lack of noise and ease of integration.
Yet, portable printer manufacturers have been crying out for lower-energy, lighter-weight and smaller-size thermal printheads to help them increase the size of their market. Recent advancements, particularly new finer heating elements that require less power, have paved the way for a rapid expansion of this market. In an encouraging sign, handheld thermal printers are already used to produce all of the tickets sold on Japanese bullet trains.
While more expensive technologies such as dot matrix and laser have largely captured the attention of the public, thermal printers have silently moved into a position of dominance in a wide range of markets where their low-cost and simple operation are more important than the super high-resolution printing capabilities of inkjet and laser printers.
Years ago, the chances were great that when you ate a restaurant meal your receipt would be printed on a dot matrix printer. Today, it's almost certain to be printed on a thermal printer. Likewise thermal printers have captured the vast majority of the fax market including even many high-end faxes that use thermal transfer printers to produce an image on plain paper.
Along with their penetration of the point-of-sale market, thermal printers have achieved a strong market position in producing a wide range of labels, tickets, kiosk printouts, and the majority of all other custom printing applications.
Perhaps the most interesting of all the recent innovations is one that came in response to requests from portable printer manufacturers. Despite the fact that direct thermal printheads were already by far the smallest and lightest available, the portable printer manufacturers needed a substantial reduction in energy consumption, lower voltage operation and additional size and weight reduction in order to increase market penetration.
The response was a new line-type heating element that is more efficient because it heats a much smaller area than a conventional heating element with special type of partial glaze. The width of the new heating elements is only about half that of conventional elements. The result is that 30 percent less energy is required to achieve the same optical density as a conventional heating element.
The result is a new generation of compact, low-voltage, and thick-film thermal printheads that are perfectly suited for point-of-sale terminals and other types of portable printers. The new printheads offer an operating voltage as low as 2.7V, compared to a typical operating voltage of 7.2V. This reduction allows sufficient operating margin to enable operation by a 3.6V lithium-ion battery.
The low operating voltage also allows the printer to be powered by two conventional 1.5V batteries. In addition, a new FFC-compatible connector has been developed that helps reduce the overall size of the printhead by 30 percent. All printhead functions are incorporated into a single ceramic substrate to reduce overall size of the unit. These new printheads have proven extremely popular in a wide range of portable printing applications and have already demonstrated the ability to expand the size of the portable printer market.
While most of the attention has gone to laser and inkjet printing technologies, thermal printers have come out of nowhere to establish a strong lead in the custom printing market. The key to their success is their low cost, simple operation, long life, fast speed and high printing quality.
A series of innovations over the last several years has the potential to dramatically extend the lead of thermal printers in a wide range of applications. There are more innovative products on the horizon to meet the market requirements. Clearly, the successful market run of thermal printers has already begun.
Remeete has a serial of handheld printers, to meet different printing demand.