Difference Between Thermal Printer and Inkjet Printer

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Thermal Printer and Inkjet Printer

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In this modern era of commerce and large corporations, we make use of printers for a variety of functions, including printing receipts, payments, ads, and so on. There are two well-known kinds of printers that are now accessible on the market. These printers are referred to as inkjet printers and thermal printers. Thermal printers and inkjet printers have a lot of characteristics in common with one another, but they also differ in a lot of key factors.

Every day, companies all around the globe depend on printers to print a wide variety of documents and goods, such as contracts, invoices, asset management tags, and many other things. Companies must understand their unique printing requirements and buy the best printer for those requirements. For example, an inkjet printer is capable of producing high-quality photographs, but it cannot produce barcodes rapidly and easily.

Thermal Printer vs Inkjet Printer

How the data is transferred from computer to paper is the primary distinction between a thermal printer and an inkjet printer. To print data, the inkjet printer sprays a liquid based on a solvent onto the paper, while the thermal printer uses heat to apply dried wax contained in the liquid in the paper, and then prints the data. A method analogous to melting crayons with heat is used in the thermal printing process.

When printing or producing pictures on paper, thermal printers use minuscule printing components to do so. Thermal printers are used often in industrial settings for printing warning signs, safety signs, direction symbols, and other labels, among other things. The usage of thermal printers has several benefits, including the fact that they are long-lasting, have a diverse range of applications, and have reasonable operating costs.

Printing pictures and other information on paper using an inkjet printer requires the use of a solvent liquid. In most cases, these printers are used for less extensive endeavors, such as in businesses, houses, and other similar settings. The superior picture quality that may be produced by the inkjet printer will be the device's defining characteristic. Even inexpensive inkjet printers are capable of producing photos of high quality. When compared to the price of other types of printers, the cost of acquiring an inkjet printer is rather low.

In thermal printers, the dot pattern characters are "burned" or "melted" into the specialized paper by using heated components. A dried, wax-based pigment is pressed into the substrate (such as paper) using heat in this industrial printing method. It is both cost-effective and time-efficient. Instead of moving across the sheet, the print head does a scan over the paper, which results in the printing of a string of characters. Inkjet printers, on the other hand, utilize liquid ink to form an image rather than a ribbon and heat. To create an image, the printer sprays thousands of very small droplets of ink onto a substrate, such as paper, and builds it up pixel by pixel.

The use of inkjet printers is one of the most used forms of digital printing, and it is also one of the ways that may generate pictures of high quality at a lower starting cost. The resolution, the substrate that is utilized in the printing process, and the number of levels that can be printed onto a single dot are the three primary factors that determine the quality of the print. The prints are susceptible to deterioration from any moisture or humidity. Prints produced by thermal printers are of a higher quality and have a glossy, protective surface in addition to more intense color saturation. Thermal printers are more reliable than other types of printers because they have fewer moving components.

Difference Between Thermal Printer and Inkjet Printer in Tabular Form

Parameters of Comparison Thermal Printer Inkjet Printer
Printing process When compared to inkjet printers, laser printers need much less time to complete the printing process. In comparison to thermal printers, the time needed to complete the printing process is much longer.
Cost of acquisition Purchasing and maintaining a thermal printer is a costly endeavor. The initial investment and ongoing costs of an inkjet printer are lower than those of other types of printers.
Image quality In comparison, the pictures that thermal printers create are of lower quality. In comparison to thermal printers, inkjet printers are capable of producing pictures of superior quality.
Accessibility The ink refills for thermal printers are difficult to come by, which contributes to their high cost. In comparison to thermal printers, inkjet printers have an abundance of readily available and inexpensive ink refill options.
Application Used in industrial settings for printing labels, bar codes, airline tickets, and other such items, among other applications. Used in homes and workplaces as well as on banners and in mailing addresses, among other places.

What is Thermal Printer?

Jack Laurate Kilby is credited as being the inventor of the thermal printer in 1965. To print pictures or data on paper, thermal printers make use of heat. When printing pictures, a dried element that contains wax is placed on the paper and then pressed down. The technique of thermal printing will be similar to the one that is used to melt crayons by applying heat.

The usage of thermal printers offers several benefits, including cheap costs of maintenance, a dependable printer, user-friendliness, good quality, versatility, etc. When you need to print a large number of pages, thermal pages may be helpful since the cost of printing remains the same regardless of the number of pages or photos that are printed. Because there are no toners or drums that need to be replaced, the cost of maintenance for these types of printers is significantly reduced.

The whole system or process of printing is automated with thermal printers, and all that is required of us is to load the sheets to be printed and switch on the printer. This makes thermal printers very user-friendly. The versatility of thermal printers is shown by the fact that they may be fastened to or installed on any vehicle or cart, and that they are simple to transport. Thermal printers have fewer moving components than other types of printers, making them very dependable.

Thermal printers produce pictures and graphics of excellent quality, and the accuracy of their output ensures that every piece of data is legible. Direct thermal printers and thermal transfer printers are the two different kinds of thermal printers that are available on the market today.

In a thermal printer, an image is created by pressing pins that have been electrically heated up against paper that is heat-sensitive. Standard thermal printers are quite cheap, but the print quality is poor, and the pictures have a tendency to get blurry after some amount of time has passed. The receipts that are printed out by self-service gas pumps often come from a thermal printer that is incorporated within the pump and is of poor quality. Thermal paper is used to print receipts for purchases in a large number of retail and supermarket outlets as well as point-of-sale terminals.

However, some thermal printers have printing technology of a high grade, and they can print at rates that are far quicker than laser printers and ink-jet printers. Heat is used in dye-sublimation printers, which are also known as digital picture printers. This allows the colored dye to be transferred from the ribbon to the coated paper. Dye-sublimation printers are used in a variety of different professional applications, including photographic studios, security identification systems, and medical laboratories, all of which demand images of high quality. These high-end printers are capable of producing pictures in a broad variety of sizes and may cost several thousand dollars each.

When utilized in the home or by a small company, dye-sublimation printers generally produce pictures in just one or two sizes, and they are much slower than professional printers. In terms of price, these dye-sublimation printers at the lower end of the market may be compared to picture printers, and their design is based on ink-jet printers.

What is Inkjet Printer?

In 1976, Hewlett-Packard was the company that developed the very first inkjet printer. Printing pictures or data on paper using an inkjet printer requires solvent-based ink, as the name indicates. To print pictures on paper, inkjet printers release thousands of individual droplets of ink at once. We can tailor the size of the droplets to meet our specific requirements. Inkjet printers are often used for printing high-speed codes, offices, billboards, banners, and other similar applications.

The low cost of purchase and maintenance, in addition to the high picture quality, are three benefits of inkjet printers. Because the components, such as cartridges and ink refills, that are necessary for printing with an inkjet printer are so readily available, the overall cost is significantly reduced. These printers have relatively low costs associated with their maintenance and upkeep. Images created or printed using an inkjet printer are of high quality, particularly when it comes to 3D printing.

Always on the other side of advantage lies a downside. The lack of durability, the need for a greater number of moving components, and the dependability of inkjet printers are all negatives. Images that are produced by inkjet printers use ink, thus they are susceptible to smudging, becoming unreadable if they come into contact with water or humidity, and eventually losing their color over time. Operating an inkjet printer requires a large number of moving components; thus, these moving parts wear down over time and need to be replaced.

Because of this, inkjet printers have a broad variety of applications around the globe and are available at prices that are reasonable for all areas of the economy.

An ink-jet printer is a sort of non-impact printer that creates images and characters by spraying very small droplets of liquid ink onto a sheet of paper to produce the image. They quickly gained widespread use in color printers designed for use in the home. They are capable of producing black-and-white graphics and text as well as color text and graphics on a wide range of materials, and they do it in both formats. A reasonable ink-jet printer may be purchased for less than one hundred dollars.

The resolution of an ink-jet printer is one factor that may be used to evaluate its overall quality. The number of dots per inch (dpi) that a printer is capable of printing may be used as a measurement tool for determining the resolution of a printer. Most printers can print 1200-4800 dpi. The number of pages that can be printed in one minute is how an ink-jet printer's speed is assessed in terms of pages per minute (ppm). The majority of ink-jet printers have speeds ranging from 12 to 36 pages per minute (ppm), although they produce graphics and colors at a much slower pace.

The print head mechanism that is utilized in an ink-jet printer has ink-filled cartridges, and each of these cartridges has between fifty and hundreds of little ink holes, also known as nozzles. Any one of the nozzles may be used to eject the ink onto the paper to create the desired picture or character. When the cartridge no longer contains any more ink, it may be easily swapped out for a new one using the same slot. The majority of printers that use ink include at least two different ink cartridges, one of which contains simply black ink and the others containing various colors. When shopping for a printer, you need to take into consideration a few different aspects, two of which are the number of ink cartridges it uses and the price of each cartridge. Some purchasers can cut down on the cost of cartridges by buying refilled cartridges or empty cartridges that have been refilled by a third party.

Main Difference Between Thermal Printer and Inkjet Printer in Points

  • When compared to inkjet printers, thermal printers are known for their superior reliability.
  • When it comes to printing 3D pictures, inkjet printers are the best option since thermal printers are unable to create 3D content.
  • When producing pictures or data on paper, inkjet printers make use of ink that is based on a solvent, whereas thermal printers make use of wax-containing materials and heat to generate images on paper.
  • When compared to inkjet printers, the cost of a thermal printer is much higher.
  • Thermal printers offer a variety of applications, however, inkjet printers are limited in what they can print due to the ink's tendency to smear readily and become unusable if it comes into contact with water.
  • When compared to inkjet printers, thermal printers offer lower costs associated with their maintenance and upkeep.
  • Thermal printing is much quicker than inkjet printing, making it ideal for high-volume printing jobs.
  • Thermal transfer printing is best for medical-grade Tyvek, but inkjet-coated Tyvek isn't acceptable for medical applications since the Tyvek must be porous to sterilize the packed contents.


Printers that use thermal printing and printers that use inkjet printing each have their own set of benefits and drawbacks. The printer has a variety of applications, depending on how it will be utilized. Both methods create or print pictures and data of high quality. Thermal printers are more dependable than inkjet printers because inkjet printers use ink to print on paper, and ink is readily damaged by water. Thermal printers utilize heat instead of ink.

While inkjet printers have a limited number of applications, thermal printers find widespread usage in a variety of fields, including bar coding and industry. In contrast, the applications of inkjet printers are more numerous. The cost of maintenance for thermal printers is higher than that of inkjet printers because inkjet printers need more moving parts to function, and the cost of replacing those components contributes to the overall maintenance cost.


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"Difference Between Thermal Printer and Inkjet Printer." Diffzy.com, 2024. Sat. 24 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-thermal-printer-and-inkjet-printer-516>.

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