Most business printing needs are handled well by inkjet or laser printer technology. However, if you need the ability to print on surfaces to which toner won't stick or surfaces that can't absorb ink, thermal wax printers can handle the task. Instead of using a powder or a liquid ink, they transfer wax to the print media where it dries and solidifies. Popular business applications for thermal wax transfer technology include printing product and shipping labels.

Thermal Wax Transfer

Thermal wax transfer printers don't use ink cartridges, toner cartridges or ink-impregnated ribbons. Instead, they have sheets that contain colored wax and a printing element that generates heat. When an image is sent to the printer, the printhead heats the wax-impregnated sheet, causing it to melt onto the paper or other print medium. As the wax cools, it forms a hard surface that adheres to the print medium. Like other printheads, thermal wax heads use a series of small dots to generate images.

Monochrome vs Color

Monochrome thermal wax transfer printers only print in one color at a time, just like a black-and-white laser printer. Color thermal wax printers are also available. Like an inkjet or color laser printer, they use multiple colors, but in the form of multiple sheets of colored wax. Unfortunately, they cannot overlay colors on top of each other, so they create color images by placing dots next to each other in a process called dithering, resulting in color image quality that is, at best, limited.

Thermal or Thermal Wax

In addition to thermal wax printers, your business can also buy thermal printers. A thermal printer doesn't use a ribbon; it simply burns an image right into the sheet of paper. Thermal printers require specially coated papers, though. While the technology was popular in early fax machines, it is much rarer today and usually only used for prints that don't have to last a long time.

Dye Sublimation

Dye sublimation printers are very similar to thermal wax transfer printers, with one key difference. Both use heat to transfer images to paper and both use sheets impregnated with colorant. While a wax transfer printer uses wax, dye sublimation printer films are made with a transparent dye. The dye's transparency allows these printers to overlap colors while a variable heating element allows these printers to vary how much color goes in an area. This allows them to print photographic images that approach photo lab quality and makes them a much better choice if you need high quality color output for your business.