Thermal printing is a process where images are generated digitally by applying heat to heat-sensitive thermal paper. The heat applied to the paper causes certain chemicals to change color, resulting in the desired images being transferred to the thermal paper. Due primarily to its relatively low cost and high speed of operation, thermal printing has experienced a significant and sustained growth phase, particularly in the manufacturing sector where companies need to produce labels quickly in bulk.
While worldwide sales of thermal printers neared $33 billion in 2014, they are projected to continue growing to an estimated $41 billion by 2019. The market is going to continue to expand, but with that growth comes questions and uncertainty. New technology requires new hardware, new repair specialists, and new replacement parts. But it’s not all about potential pitfalls; learn how you can take advantage of the thermal printing phenomenon to optimize your processes and increase productivity.
Advantages of Thermal Printers
The rise of thermal printers can be tied to several distinct advantages of the format. They are generally inexpensive, they can complete jobs more quickly than their traditional high-capacity laser or inkjet counterparts, and the quality of the print is usually considered to be high.
This makes thermal printers ideal for manufacturing sectors such as retail, where the companies ship large amounts of similar items that are often delayed by the label printing process. Thermal printers also have fewer working parts than other printing formats, resulting in less maintenance and easier repairs.
Current Market Snapshot
The current market outlook is strong, as a diverse array of industries are benefiting from thermal printing and the technology continues to improve. Of the $32.8 billion in worldwide sales accounted for in the thermal printing market for 2014, 31% of that revenue was generated by printers themselves, while the remaining 69% comes from sales of supplies and accessories.
Thermal printing has cemented its presence in industries as diverse as transportation, retail, manufacturing, healthcare, government, and security. Regionally, the market has mostly been dominated by North America, although that is expected to change rapidly in the coming decade.
Drivers of Future Market Growth
Thermal printer manufacturers are able to market their product as a productivity tool, allowing B2B clients to calculate return on investment associated with adopting thermal printing as a company standard. This, along with improvements in near-field communications and cloud computing, will make thermal printing technology attractive to an even larger field of companies. This robust growth is expected to continue well into the next decade, with exponential growth forecast especially for the burgeoning Asia Pacific market.
Advice for the Future
Any company would be wise to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, and costs of implementing a thermal printing system to determine if it’s right for them. A managed print services company, which offers regular maintenance and repair as well as scheduled supply refills, can help to keep you on track of your thermal printing needs and ensure that you get the most out of your investment.