Why Are Thermal Printers So Expensive?
By Simon Williams - 30th Oct 2023

If you’re a budding small business e-commerce owner or have ever worked in a customer service role, chances are high that you have had extensive experience working with thermal label printers. These quirky little printers are often compact pieces of hardware that use zero ink to produce printed goods like labels, barcodes, QR codes, receipts, postage stickers, promotional vouchers and more. Whilst they may be commonplace in large retail chain stores, it’s generally not until we look into investing in our own thermal label printer that we realise just how expensive these little workaholics can be!

So, why are thermal printers so expensive? This is a question we get asked a lot at CartridgesDirect and one that we will be exploring in today's blog. Scroll down to discover why thermal printers are so expensive to purchase up front, yet will help you save money printing in the long run. When you're finished, don't forget to hit us up in the comments with any questions you have above thermal printing or printing labels and tapes.

Now, let's uncover the real cost of thermal printing.

3 reasons why thermal printers are expensive.

Not everything in life is out to get you and the cost of thermal printers can be justified primarily due to the technology that is used to produce superior results and keep your operational costs down. Unlike inkjet printers that require regular maintenance and constant resupply of ink cartridges, thermal printers are less of a challenge to keep going. Subsequently, you pay more upfront.

Here's the 3 primary reasons why thermal printers are so expensive.

1. Thermal printers use complex technology.

One of the primary reasons why some thermal printers may cost more than standard inkjet printers is because of the unique print technologies used within the printing unit. As zero ink printers, thermal printers and label makers are naturally reliant on sophisticated printer hardware, such as thermal print heads to get the job done. In a similar fashion as to why ink cartridges are so expensive, you are ultimately paying for the technology inside.

There are two types of thermal print heads for two specific types of thermal printers, these being direct thermal printers and thermal transfer printers. The main difference between the two is simply that direct thermal printers use special chemically-treated printer labels and tapes, whilst thermal transfer printers use a solid ‘ribbon’ of ink (like typewriter ribbons!) rather than ink cartridges or carbon paper, the paper used to print receipts. Be sure to use the right types of printing paper depending on the thermal printer you have!

Due to the unique hardware, a lot of intricate fabrication processes go into the production of thermal printers. There’s no room for error and so it stands to reason that established thermal printer manufacturers factor the handling of these small parts and extensive quality assurance testing into the retail prices of their thermal printers. Thankfully, as thermal printers are generally very compact, the finished product consists of next to no moving parts, meaning that thermal printers can actually produce optimal prints for decades.

2. Thermal printing materials deliver durable results.

Aside from thermal printing paper and ink ribbons, both direct thermal printers and thermal transfer printers require less speciality printing materials than other commercial print producers (like sublimation printers), as the printer itself provides the heat and pressure required to produce all your ink-free, high-quality prints.

This effectively means that despite the thermal printer being an initially costly investment, the minimal printing costs will effectively ensure that you swiftly experience a strong return on your investment in the long term.

It’s also worth noting that labels produced using a direct thermal printer have also been known to hold their colour quality for longer, meaning that you won’t have to worry about your prints fading prematurely. This can be especially useful when printing postage labels, as a high-quality label will naturally result in fewer instances of packages being lost during shipping.

3. Thermal printers offer versatile capabilities.

Finally, when you factor in the versatility of thermal printers, the costs really do feel doubly justified. This single piece of equipment can produce a diverse range of printed materials, ranging from receipts and shipping labels to barcodes for inventory management, durable floor markers for theatre venues or worksites, as well as professional vinyl signs (like men’s and women’s bathroom signs).

Just as eCommerce business owners can utilise thermal printers for their postage label-printing capabilities, owners of speciality retail or hospitality enterprises can also greatly benefit from investing in thermal printers, as they can be used to produce customised store signage and heavy-duty labels for pots, steamers, and other equipment that may be subject to heat. In the age of contact tracing, label printers can also be used to produce quick and easy QR codes that won’t stain or discolour over time.

As you can imagine, the ability to produce high-quality label and sign prints can be an absolute game-changer for budding business owners who are looking to bring their enterprise to greater heights.

Why still invest in a label printer?

When calculating your printing costs alongside other types of printers, it stands to reason that label printers will actually save you money over time as you begin to continue using the same unit without any printer maintenance costs. Sure, there's the upfront setup cost, however, the monthly printer maintenance cost is minimal.

Oftentimes, budding business owners can forget to factor in the costs of hardware required to coordinate your organisation’s postage services. In this regard, a thermal printer is likely to be a foundational investment for your growing enterprise. Whilst smaller Brother label printers capable of standard-sized multi-purpose label printing can retail at under $100, larger thermal printers are generally better suited to specific types of printing jobs, the most popular of which is shipping and postage label printing.

For instance, the Dymo LabelWriter 4XL Label Machine Printer is one of our most expensive thermal printers here at Cartridges Direct, but it’s also the best thermal printer for many business owners who may be regularly printing shipping or postage labels. As this is one of few thermal printer models that have the capacity to print larger 104 x 159 mm adhesive labels, the Dymo LabelWriter 4XL is undoubtedly an indispensable asset to anybody who’s looking to start up their own e-commerce business, from a large-scale enterprise to an independent arts and crafts store.

How to select your ideal thermal printer?

With all this in mind, now is the time to really ask yourself what you could stand to benefit from investing in a thermal printer for your home or business. As these printers are available in a selection of sizes, it’s definitely worth assessing the print jobs that you’d like to tackle well before purchasing any thermal printer online or at office stationery and equipment retailers.

If you have any questions about our thermal printers and smaller label makers available here at CartridgesDirect, Get in touch with our printing specialists today for some expert advice on finding all the right printing solutions for your home and business.

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