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Receipt Printer Buying Guide

If you are not familiar with the different types of receipt printers, this Receipt Printer Buying Guide will help you choose what is best for your business.

Most businesses that have walk-in customers need to give out receipts as a record of purchases  There are many different receipt printers on the market, but we will make this very easy for you to to decide what type of receipt printer you need.

There are basically 2 kinds of receipt printers, thermal and impact (dot matrix).  We will explain the differences and features of both. 

thermal receipt printer1. Thermal Receipt Printer

A thermal receipt printer is high speed printing.  It does not need an ink ribbon because the paper it uses is chemically treated heat sensitive paper. The print head is in direct contact with the paper, and the printhead actually burns the characters onto the chemically treated thermal receipt paper. A thermal printer is most common for printing receipts. Please note that thermal printers cannot be used in any hot environment such as a restaurant kitchen. This is because the heat sensitive chemically treated thermal printer paper will turn black when exposed to high heat.

1.2. Top Paper Exit or Front Paper Exit Thermal Receipt Printer?

The Top paper exit thermal receipt printer design was the only option until recently. Now there are front paper exit thermal receipt printers. A front paper exit thermal receipt printer is a great alternative to a standard top paper exit printer because it has superior resistance to spills and other contaminants getting inside of the printer, which can happen more easily with a top paper exit printer. So a front paper exit printer is generally an ideal choice for restaurants where liquids can easily spill on top of a receipt printer.

Front paper exit thermal receipt printers have 2 categories: 1, top loading paper design and, 2, front paper loading design. A front paper loading design can be easily mounted underneath the counter; whereas, the top paper loading design (even though it is a front paper exit printer) may not work underneath the counter because the top cover opens upwards. So if you plan on installing a front paper exit receipt printer underneath the counter, please be sure to get the front loading type like the Star FVP-10.

1.3. Thermal Receipt Printer Speed: How Fast Do I need to Go? 

Fast and super fast is basically how you can break down thermal printer categories, and keep in mind...the faster the print speed...the more expensive the printer is.  So which is right for you and your business?  We will have an easy to understand Q&A session to help you decide what you need: 

Is your store busy all day long with lines of customers, or do you print receipts that are long? If you answered, yes, to either question then you need a 250mm/sec to 350mm/sec print speed printer. These printers are in the super fast category, and they will print extremely fast to keep your long lines and your long receipts moving at optimum speed. If you answered, no, then you can get by with a printer that prints around 150mm/sec to 220mm/sec. A 150mm/sec printer still prints very fast, and it should be sufficient for your needs if your lines at the cash wrap are not long all day and you are not printing feet long receipts. To put things into perspective, when thermal printers first came out they only had a 50mm/sec print speed...something to think about. Epson, Star Micronics, Citizen, Seiko, Ithaca to name a few top quality manufacturers offer a wide selection of receipt printers to choose from.

2. Impact Receipt Printer

An impact receipt printer is older technology. An impact printer is a dot matrix printer that uses an ink ribbon and regular 3” plain paper.  Impact printers are generally used where a thermal printers cannot be used like a hot, humid restaurant kitchen, for example.  Impact printers are also used when a copy of a receipt is required in a journal format, yellow copy on 2 ply paper.  This is not very common these days since the advent of advanced computerized POS systems that track sales data, but some still do require a yellow carbon copy in a take-up journal roll.  

3. Auto Cutter or Not? 

Most thermal receipt printers come with an auto cutter.  An auto cutter is a guillotine device that cuts the paper (receipt) almost completely off; the receipt is still barely connected at the end of the cut. This makes it very easy to remove the receipt. Several Star Micronics thermal receipt printers do not come with an auto cutter; they come with a tear bar only instead. A tear bar has jagged teeth that cut into the paper when your pull it.  

All impact receipt printers come with the choice of a tear bar or an auto cutter. Please note that receipt printers with a tear bar only (no auto cutter) cost less. If having an auto cutter is a must for you because having it allows for easier removal of the receipt from the printer, then know for sure that the model of printer you are interested in has an auto cutter. If you are unsure, contact us directly and we will let you know. And one last thing to note: all receipt printers that come with an auto cutter also has a tear bar. The tear bar is there so you can still remove receipts from the printer if in the event the auto cutter malfunctions and stops cutting the receipts for you. 

4. Summary 

Now that you know about the differences between thermal and impact printers, bottom line is this:

a. If you need a receipt printer in a restaurant kitchen to print food orders, then you need an impact printer.  Also if you need a receipt printer in any hot, humid environment or in an environment with caustic materials, you will more than likely need an impact receipt printer. 

b. If you need a receipt printer to print standard retail receipts in an area that is not extremely hot, like in a temperature controlled retail store, then you need a thermal printer


And by the way, we are very thankful that you decided to shop with us. You are awesome!