What is a Thermal Wax Printer – A Beginner’s Guide

What is a Wax Thermal Printer

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Thermal printers are by far the mainstay printer of choice in the printing industry. They are a type of ink-based printer, just like inkjet, dot-matrix, and dye sublimation.

But what exactly are thermal wax printers?

Thermal wax printers are printing devices that use a printing mechanism similar to a dye sublimation printer. However, instead of laying down a transparent die, it melts dots of wax-based ink that stick to almost any print surface, from ordinary paper to complex synthetics and films.

This article will discuss the printing process of thermal wax transfer printers, their uses, and the advantages and disadvantages of this technology.

So put on your learning caps because we’re about to dive into the world of thermal wax printing

How Does A Thermal Wax Printer Work

A thermal wax transfer printer requires three components to print.

  1. Heat
  2. Wax-based ink
  3. Print media

The heat is provided by a print mechanism called a thermal print head. Thermal print heads are made up of tiny heating elements (energizing resistors) arranged in a matrix form. These heating elements generate heat as an electric current passes through them.

The wax-based ink is provided by a thermal transfer ribbon. A ribbon is a thin film made of colored waxes, resins, or a combination of both. However, thermal wax printers can only use epoxy or wax-coated ink ribbon.

When a print command is sent, an electric current passes through the print head, heating the energizing resistors. Once the print head achieves its operating temperature, around 300°C, it is pressed against the thermal transfer ribbon.

The heat from the print head melts the small dots of wax or epoxy-based ink on the ribbon. This molten wax-based ink is then deposited onto the paper or other media in a pattern corresponding to the printed image. As the wax cools and hardens, it bonds to the print media creating a sharp, high-resolution image.

In general, thermal wax printers lay down a single layer of wax-based ink on the media. However, some high-end models have print heads that can accurately vary the temperature, enabling them to create multi-level dots.

Thermal wax printers have a similar working to thermal transfer printers. Check our guide on how a thermal printer works to expand your knowledge about thermal printing technology.

Thermal Wax Printer Uses

Thermal wax printers are used for many different printing applications, such as.

  • Print labels and barcodes for retail environments
  • Printing shipping labels
  • Receipt printing
  • Printing on specialty paper, including waterproof or heat-resistant paper
  • Ticket printing for events or transportation

What Are the Advantages of Using a Thermal Wax Printer

The advantages of a thermal wax printer are.

  • Thermal wax printers can produce high-quality prints. 
  • The prints produced by thermal wax printers are resistant to smudging. 
  • Thermal wax prints last longer than prints created using a laser and inkjet printer.
  • Thermal wax printers have a faster print speed compared to ink and laser printers. A thermal wax printer has an average printing speed ranging between six to twelve inches per second.
  • Some thermal wax printers have adjustable temperature settings, which is important for getting the best print quality possible. 
  • Thermal wax printers are available in a variety of sizes and prices. 

What Are the Disadvantages of Using a Thermal Wax Printer?

The disadvantages of a thermal wax printer are.

  • Thermal wax printers require a thermal wax ribbon, which can be expensive in the long run.
  • You may end up with a lower-quality print if you do not use the correct print settings.
  • The printhead can wear out over time, resulting in a decrease in print quality and costly repairs.
  • Thermal wax printers require regular cleaning and maintenance.

Follow our thermal printer maintenance tips – cleaning & care guide for some best practices on cleaning and maintaining a thermal printer.

The Bottom Line

Thermal wax printers are a reliable and durable printing solution. However, thermal wax printers restrict the usage of the media, as they can only print using wax or epoxy-based ribbons.

Therefore, we highly recommend switching to thermal printers. Thermal printers offer two printing technologies – Direct Thermal Printing and Thermal Transfer Printing. Check out our direct thermal vs. thermal transfer printing guide for more information.

Thermal printers have a wider range of print media and ribbon compatibility, making them more versatile than thermal wax printers. They also provide many features, such as wireless and mobile printing, adjustable print speed, and higher-resolution prints.

Ultimately, the choice of printer depends on your specific printing needs and requirements. Do your research before purchasing a printer to ensure that you get the right one for your business or personal needs.

If you need help choosing a thermal printer, our thermal printer buyers guide is an excellent place to start.

Thanks for reading!

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