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The Difference Between Thermal Printers vs. Impact Printers

What type of printer is best for your business? Each has its own features and benefits, but what are the differences? When trying to decide between thermal versus impact printers, you want to make sure you have all the information before making your decision.

How they work

Thermal Printers work by heating up specially coated paper that is sensitive to heat. Essentially, a thermal printer prints by burning the paper. Because of this, they don’t have very many moving parts compared to their counterparts and can print much faster. Impact printers, also known as dot matrix printers, work by using small dots to impress an ink ribbon into the paper. Because these printers use ink or toner, they can print in multiple colors and print multiple copies at once with the help of impact sensitive paper.

The cost of thermal versus dot matrix printers is about the same. We do have some models of thermal printers that have a lower cost than our impact printers. Although, impact printers have higher operating costs due to the need to buy paper and ink, while thermal printers only need paper.

What’s Right for You?

This varies depending on your needs and the environment that these printers will be in. In a hot kitchen environment, we recommend impact printers because impact receipt paper is not sensitive to heat. The paper will not turn black when it’s near heat lamps for food, for example. For receipt printing, we recommend thermal printers. They are much faster and quieter than impact printers, which translates to less wait time between sales.

Other things to consider

Both printers have their advantages and disadvantages. Always consider the printer paper you have. Impact printers can print multiple receipts at once and are less susceptible to heat. When it comes to the Impact Printer there are 3 different of bond papers. They come in 1 ply, 2 ply, and 3 ply. 1 ply is just white ply, 2 ply is white and yellow and the 3 ply which is white, yellow and pink. The color allows you the business owner to decide what purpose for each ply.

Thermal printers are faster, quieter, and tend to last longer because they have less moving parts. You may also want to think about how many printers you should have. Typically, each point of sale/register should have their own dedicated printer and there is a kitchen printer for each station. Although, depending on how much traffic you get, how close the stations are to each other, and other things, you may opt to share some printers.


Merchant Advantage POS is a well diverse software that will allow you to succeed within your business. From the basic clock in functions to everyday reporting, everything a business owner would need to help them strive is right beneath their fingertips.

As always, we are here to help. Let us know if you have any questions.

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Total Merchant Supply is a POS Dealer based in NC & SC.