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Printer Basics: Thermal Inkjet Systems

Understanding How Thermal Inkjets Work and When to Choose Them for Your Business

Thermal Inkjet Systems

Inkjet printers are some of the most popular for both home users and professionals in the packaging and manufacturing industry. Known for their high-quality images and efficient production, these printers can be very effective for a range of product categories. Thermal inkjets, in particular, are widely used. Beyond the quality prints they produce, a low initial cost and minimal maintenance requirements make thermal inkjets (TIJ) a valuable investment. To learn more about these printers, as well as alternatives, read on.

How Thermal Printers Work

Within the inkjet family are three key branches: thermal, continuous, and piezoelectric. Of these, the first two are most common. As its name suggests, the thermal inkjet uses heat, created by resistors, to vaporize ink and form a bubble. This bubble then pushes ink out of the nozzle, creating an image. When it pops, the space left becomes a vacuum, which draws more ink into the print head. By contrast, the piezoelectric inkjet uses piezo crystals, which vibrate to push ink from the nozzle instead.

The continuous inkjet (CIJ) has a more distinct design – check out our blog post all about continuous inkjets to learn more.

Thermal Inkjet vs. Continuous Inkjet

Traditionally, thermal inkjets and continuous inkjets served different purposes. With a line speed that can reach 10 times that of thermal inkjets, CIJ are popular for businesses that need to prioritize efficiency. Likewise, they can print on almost any material, making them highly flexible. While CIJ have higher start-up costs than TIJ, and demand routine maintenance, ink cost is lower.

By contrast, TIJ produce higher-quality prints, reaching up to 600DPI. They are also versatile: Though they were once limited to porous materials, recent updates have allowed TIJ to print on porous substrates previous compatible only with CIJ. Further, the thermal inkjet is generally considered more environmentally friendly, producing fewer odors and using safer inks.

Notably, neither CIJ nor TIJ requires the print head to come into direct contact with the substrate during printing. This key design feature prevents damage to either the image or the material itself.

When to Use Thermal Inkjets

As always, it’s important to consider your specific needs when choosing a printer, including cost, maintenance, and printing goals. While CIJ are popular for coding and labeling that needs to be efficient and involves variable information, such as UPC codes, TIJ are well-equipped to manage most other printing projects. This is particularly true when printing more complex images that demand a high resolution.


Not sure which printer is right for your business? We can help. With over 30 years of printing, packaging, and labeling experience, our team is prepared to support you and guarantee you choose the right printing solution. To learn more, contact us today at (904) 263-2804 or sign up for a free consultation.


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