Most label printer use direct thermal printing. This is how the direct thermal printing process works. A direct thermal printer produces a printed image by selectively heating specially coated themochromic paper when the paper passes over the thermal printhead. The coating turns black in the areas where it is heated, producing the image. Two-colour direct thermal printers are capable of printing both black and a one additional colour by applying heat at two different temperatures.

Thermal transfer printing is a related method that uses a heat-sensitive ribbon instead of thermal paper. A thermal printer comprises several key components: The thermal head generates heat and prints on paper. The platen is a rubber roller that feeds paper. The spring applies pressure to the thermal head, causing it to contact the thermo sensitive paper. Lastly, the controller board controlling the printing mechanism

In order to print, the thermo-sensitive paper is inserted between the thermal head and the platen. The printer sends an electrical current to the heating resistor of the thermal head, which in turn generates heat in a designated pattern. The heat activates the thermo-sensitive colouring layer of the thermo-sensitive paper, which manifests a pattern of colour change in response. Such a printing mechanism is known as a thermal system or direct system.

Controller boards use embedded firmware to control the thermal printer mechanisms. These controller boards features are designed to meet the labelling needs in terms of functionality and printer specifications. The firmware can manage multiple bar code types, logos, and graphics. They enable the user to choose between different resident fonts, including Asian fonts, and different character sizes. Controller boards can drive various sensors like paper low, paper out, door open, top of form to name but a few, and they are available with the most commonly used interfaces.

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