Two Kinds of Paper
If your thermal printer (usually used to print receipts) seems to be functional but no numbers or characters are appearing on the paper, it is likely you have loaded impact paper into a thermal printer. This guide will help you determine what is the right paper for your thermal printer.
You may have two kinds of printers in your venue. Impact printers and thermal printers. Impact printers print on impact paper using a physical printer head and an ink ribbon. Thermal printers print on a special heat-sensitive thermal paper using a heat transfer process. Thermal printers literally print to paper by burning the image onto the paper.
It is important to ensure you have the right paper loaded. Thermal paper is always single ply. If you have 2 or 3 ply paper in your thermal printer, this paper is for an impact printer. This paper lacks the special heat-sensitive coating and your thermal printer cannot burn numbers and characters onto this kind of paper.
Check the Size
Thermal paper is 3 1/8″ wide (roll length of 225′). Impact paper is 3″ wide (roll length of 100′). We can see this illustrated above by overlaying the more narrow impact paper over the wider thermal paper. In the example above, we’re overlaying 2 ply impact paper. This might typically be used to print kitchen tickets and with one of the duplicates used for expediting purposes. However, you may have purchased rolls of single-ply thermal and single-ply impact printer paper.
How do you know which is which? Again, simply compare the width of the rolls. The wider roll is for the thermal printer. The narrower roll is for the impact printer.
If You Have Only One Type of Roll Left
If you don’t have different rolls of paper to compare widths and the rolls are all single ply, measure the roll width. If it’s over 3″ wide, it’s thermal paper and the correct paper for your thermal printer. If you do not have a ruler on hand, place the roll in the printer. Since the impact paper is a bit more narrow than the thermal paper, it will fit. The reverse is, of course, not true. You can’t fit thermal paper into an impact printer.
Once you have the roll of paper in the printer, see if you can move it side to side. A thermal roll will fit quite snugly. It might only move side to side a tiny bit, say less than the width of a quarter coin. However, if the roll of paper moves side to side quite freely, it appears there’s space for two or three quarter coins, you have loaded impact paper into your thermal printer.
In the above illustration, we’ve loaded thermal paper into a thermal printer. The paper roll has been pushed as far as it can be pushed to the left. We can see the roll bay has very little excess space on the right and left. As well, the paper guides have very little excess space.
In the above illustration, we’ve loaded impact paper into a thermal printer. The paper roll has been pushed as far as it can be pushed to the left. We can see the roll bay has quite a bit of excess space on the right. As well, the paper guides have quite a bit of excess space on the right.
This excess space indicates you have incorrectly loaded impact paper into your thermal printer and this is the reason your thermal printer is not printing numbers and characters. Purchase thermal receipt paper. You can typically get this kind of paper at office supply stores.