Thermal printing

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Thermal printing is a method of printing that uses heat to display text and images on specially-made thermal paper.


Thermal printing is commonly used to print receipts and labels. Thermal printing is more cost effective than purchasing printer paper and ink (see printer for more on ink).

You can use specific models of thermal printers with a Raspberry Pi or Arduino which means that you can have complete control over what a thermal printer prints.

You might use a thermal printer to:

  • Print your webmentions
  • Print short notes from your computer, such as a shopping list
  • Print quizzes, puzzles, or short comics for you to enjoy

Thermal printers let you make text and images physical. This is a big benefit if you do not like to be around technology too much but need to keep notes that you already have on your computers. For instance, you could print out your daily schedule so you don't have to be around your phone to know when your meetings are.

Part of thermal printing is the charm of having a physical product. But there are real-world use cases. For instance, capjamesg prints out a daily update with his schedule. This schedule is hooked up to his Google Calendar so all important personal and work events can be printed as part of the update.

The Little Printer, developed by Berg London, tried to commercialise thermal printing by developing an IoT thermal printer. This project shut down along with the cloud that provided some necessary infrastructure.


The main cost of owning a thermal printer is buying the printer itself. Rolls of thermal paper usually cost a few pounds, depending on your model of thermal printer. For instance, the Adafruit Thermal Printer, a common choice for IoT applications of thermal printing, accepts thermal paper that costs under £2.00 per roll.


Thermal printing does use up paper which must be considered when printing (in the same vein as the old email footer "please think carefully before printing this email" message, and its variations). Thus, one must be conscious before printing and choose printing applications which are in line with their environmental habits.


  • capjamesg has a thermal printer that prints webmentions sent to his site and a daily update with news, weather, RSS articles, and more.

See Also