There are many brands of thermal printers. Easily the most popular thermal printers are the ones given out by UPS or Fedex for printing shipping labels. Thermal printers are so much more than the little desktop printers that are given away by shipping companies; today they can fill very technical rolls in printing environments.
Who’s the leader?
Zebra Technologies currently is the industry leader in terms of distribution, but there are many manufacturers of thermal printers that have better features and price points. Zebra gained a huge market share in 1998 when it purchased the California based company Eltron International. Eltron had the contracts for supplying these small printers to both UPS and Federal Express. With this acquisition Zebra was able to enter the market in the ‘Desktop’ printer business and get name recognition with every business that shipped product using UPS or Fedex. Zebra was already a formidable force in the ‘Tabletop’ printer business. Tabletop thermal printers are medium to large size printers that are meant for higher production volumes. industrial inkjet printer
Who does it better?
Source Technologies is the new kid on the block. They currently have a product line in the tabletop size of printers that is more innovative and lower priced. With pricing that starts around the industry low to mid end tabletop printers, Source Technologies printers have innovations like touch screen control panel, active print head cooling, automatic print head pressure control, Integrated ethernet adapter and single label calibration. Source Technologies is also the first company to use a standard printer control language PCL-5. Most thermal printer manufacturers use proprietary control languages. This can require systems like IBM’s AS400 to have custom forms programmed in order to print to the printer. This is time consuming because the programmer needs to learn the language of the printer before programming in the formats for the labels to be printed on the thermal printer. Most programmers are already familiar with PCL-5 because that is the control language used by almost every laser printer made today.
Who makes a better ‘Desktop’ thermal printer?
Last year Datamax-Oneil launched the E-class Mark3 line of thermal printers. These printers not only print faster in terms of inches per second, they also have a fast CPU and a decent amount of DRAM so they can process the labels and print them out at speeds that compete with tabletop printers. Although Datamax still has some work to do in fine tuning the firmware for some ‘Glitchy’ behavior, the E-class printer line is the perfect fit for companies that need a small form factor and labels printed fast.