Thermal Paper Market Heats Up
VARs will find new opportunities to sell thermal paper as printer markets quickly expand to include retail and grocery, say two vendors.
Thermal printers are being adopted more quickly than originally anticipated, especially in the retail market," says Doug Von Dollen, marketing communications specialist for Rittenhouse Paper Co. (San Francisco, CA). Rittenhouse, founded in 1915, manufactures a variety of printer paper, ribbons and labels. The privately-held company has gross sales of over $140 million and employs 600 people in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Von Dollen attributes the adoption of thermal printers in retail to mergers of large drug and discount chain stores, such as Revco and CVS. With consolidations, however, POS system changes are often required. The new POS systems often include thermal printers.
Thermal Printers Move Into New Markets
More commonly used in hospitality, thermal printers are also catching on in other markets, including grocery, banking, healthcare and gaming. The popularity of thermal printers can be attributed to their lower cost of operation (less maintenance), and their fast, quiet operation, according to Dennis Pocius, director of sales and marketing for Autron, Inc. Based in Holyoke, MA, the privately-held company was founded in 1924. Autron manufactures paper rolls from ½" to 45" wide, as well as bond rolls and thermal, carbonless and coreless papers. The company maintains a warehousing distribution network across the United States and employs 80 people.
Match Paper To The Application
For VARs, the key to selling thermal paper is understanding how it will be used in an application, says Pocius. "Selling thermal paper is not like selling fax paper," he says. Generic thermal paper may be suitable for a grocery store that is printing simple alpha-numeric characters on "throw away" receipts. A retailer, however, may want to include a store logo or even a bar code to track returns. The type of thermal paper required by this application will differ from that of the grocery store.
Despite the popularity of thermal printers, thermal paper has some limitations. Thermal paper typically has a short shelf life, staying legible for only three years, even with properly maintained temperatures, says Pocius. The paper is sensitive to heat, which turns the paper black, and to certain chemicals, which can erase receipt information. The carbonless compounds on credit card slips, often attached to a thermal receipt, will erase information on the thermal receipt. That is why understanding the application is so important, points out Pocius. Paper treated with a special top coat will resist hand oils and alcohol, for example. These papers can be used at cosmetic counters and in bars/restaurants.
Paper Size Becoming Standardized
Thermal paper rolls are becoming more standardized in size at 3 1/8" rolls of varying lengths, according to Rittenhouse's Von Dollen. This is due, in part, to the small size of thermal printers and the standardization of thermal printing mechanisms. "This is good news for VARs, since they can stock fewer sizes of paper rolls in their inventory," says Von Dollen.
Von Dollen agrees that matching the paper to the application is important. But, he adds that optimal paper formulation is also key. Optimal paper formulation refers to paper standards set by thermal printer manufacturers, Von Dollen explains. Vendors can often recommend papers that are comparable to manufacturer's specifications, but at a lower cost. "Using paper that is too abrasive, for example, could cause a print head to fail," says Von Dollen.