Frequently Asked Questions

Receipt Printers: What's the difference?

Types of Printers

There are basically three types of receipt printers: Thermal printers, Dot-Matrix Impact printers, and Hybrid printers that have both thermal and impact features.

Thermal Printer: prints using a combination of a heat-producing printhead and thermal paper. Thermal paper typically has a white top layer, a black middle layer, and a white bottom layer. The thermal printhead produces heat that burns through the top layer of white paper to expose the black beneath -- this is what produces "print." Because of this process, thermal printers typically print faster than impact printers. Thermal printers can print multiple copies of a receipt sequentially. Thermal printers generally print from 4 inches to 9 inches per second.

Dot-Matrix Impact Printer: prints onto regular paper rolls using an ink ribbon. The printhead strikes through the ribbon onto the paper to produce print. Impact printers can be used to make multiple copies of a receipt by using multi-layered paper rolls (e.g., a white and yellow copy). Impact printers can also be used to endorse checks, print on multi-layered forms, and print on any other standard paper (slip printers). Impact printers generally print from 2.5 lines per second to 7 lines per second.

Hybrid Printer: has both thermal and dot-matrix capabilities. It prints thermal receipts but can also read checks, endorse or frank checks, print validations, and do slip printing using a second dot-matrix printhead.

Printer Connections

Printers can be attached to the computer or POS system using a parallel (LPT) port, serial (COM) port or USB port. Printers can also be attached to a network as LAN (network) printers or WiFi printers, and used as shared devices. Always check with your software manufacturer to see what they recommend for connections before you purchase to avoid delays and returns. Not all software is compatible with USB or network connection printers.

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