man sitting at desk in warehouse printing a shipping barcode label from a Brother TD 4 direct thermal printer

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Thermal printers

Simplify your printing process with high-speed and user-friendly direct thermal or thermal transfer printers designed for efficiency and quality.

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Why Brother thermal printers?

Crafted to uphold Brother’s century-long legacy of reliability, versatility, and quality, our thermal printers embody our ‘at your side’ motto through and through. Not just a mantra but an integral part of our innovative products and dedicated customer support, our cutting-edge thermal printing solutions are tailored to meet your specific needs. With thermal printer models that include1:

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Print width

Choose from 2-inch, 3-inch, 4-inch and 8.5-inch print widths to match your application.

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Connectivity

Easily print from a PC or mobile device using Wi-Fi®, Bluetooth®, AirPrint® or USB connections.

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Speed

Keep your operation moving with print speeds as high as 14ips.

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Resolution

Worry less about print quality with model options ranging from 180dpi up to an impressive 600dpi.

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Output

Get thermal printers for anything from labels, tags, receipts, laminate labels and even wristbands.

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Print location

Level-up your workstation or print on the go with desktop, industrial, and mobile thermal printing options.

Which type of thermal printer is right for you?

Browse our range of mobile, desktop, and industrial thermal printers with industry-leading tech and quality.1

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Industrial
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Desktop
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Mobile
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Laminate
Uses For high-volume, high-speed printing For low- to mid-volume printing at low- to mid-speed For on-the-spot lightweight printing, or mounted on-vehicle or cart For small format jobs that require durable labels
Technology Direct Thermal & Thermal Transfer Direct Thermal & Thermal Transfer Direct Thermal Thermal Transfer
Print Width 2in to 4in 1in to 4in 2in to 8.5in 0.35in to 1.26in
Resolution Up to 600dpi Up to 300dpi Up to 300dpi Up to 360dpi
Print Speed Up to 14ips Up to 8ips Up to 6ips Up to 3.1ips
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Which printer is best for you?

63 Products

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Brother PocketJet 883 - Front Facing with Battery Pack

PocketJet 883L

High-resolution full-page mobile printer with USB-C®, Wi-Fi®, AirPrint®, Bluetooth®, and battery

Brother RuggedJet 3250WBL - Front Facing

RuggedJet 3250WBL

3-inch rugged mobile receipt and label printer with Wi-Fi®, Bluetooth® wireless technology, and Li-ion battery

Brother RuggedJet 4230B - Front Facing

RuggedJet 4230BL

4-inch rugged mobile printer with Bluetooth® wireless connectivity and smart Li-ion battery

Brother Titan Industrial Printer 4021TN - Front Facing

Brother Titan Industrial Printer 4121TN

High resolution, high-volume barcode label printer with touch panel

Brother RuggedJet 2035B Mobile Printer - Front Facing

RuggedJet Go 2035B

2-inch ultra-mobile receipt printer with Bluetooth® wireless technology

Front View - RuggedJet 2150

RuggedJet 2150

2-inch rugged mobile receipt and label printer with Wi-Fi® and Bluetooth® wireless technology

Brother TD-4750TNWBCS Printer - Left Facing - Printing Hazardous Contents Label

TD 4750TNWBCS

High-resolution facility and safety label printer with Wi-Fi® and Bluetooth® wireless technology

Brother TD 4550DNWB Series Printer - Front View

TD 4550DNWB

High-resolution 4-inch direct thermal desktop printer with Wi-Fi®, MFi and Bluetooth® wireless technology

Brother Desktop TD4650TNWB - Front Facing

TD 4750TNWB

High-resolution 4-inch thermal transfer desktop printer with Wi-Fi®, MFi and Bluetooth® wireless technology

Brother P-touch Desktop Laminate Label Printer - Front Facing

P-touch 950NW

High-resolution industrial desktop label printer with Wi-Fi® and network capability

Brother RuggedJet 4230B - Front Facing

RuggedJet 4250WBL

4-inch rugged mobile printer with Wi-Fi® and Bluetooth® wireless technology and smart Li-ion battery

Brother RuggedJet 3230BL - Front Facing

RuggedJet 3230BLCP

3-Inch rugged mobile receipt & label printer with Bluetooth®, Li-ion battery & charging conductor plate

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Learn about thermal printing.

With help from our team of printing experts, we answered the most common questions you have about thermal printing. From technology definitions to best practices, and more – we are here to help you choose the best thermal printer for you.

Thermal printing is a digital printing method that generates text or images by selectively applying heat to heat-sensitive paper or ribbons. The thermal printer sends electric currents to heating elements within a thermal printhead. After the heat is applied via the printhead, the text or image is produced or transferred onto media like paper, labels, or tags.

Direct thermal printing
  • Direct thermal printing is a process that creates printed text or images by applying selective heat to thermal paper as it moves across the thermal printhead. The printhead is heated in the areas that correspond to the pixels or image of what is to be printed. In response to the heated area, the coating of the heat-sensitive paper reacts and changes color, resulting in the creation of the desired text or image.
Thermal transfer printing
  • Thermal transfer printing is a method where heat is used to transfer wax or resin from a ribbon onto paper, tags, or labels. Selective heating from the thermal printhead is used to only heat certain areas of the ribbon installed into the printer, causing the wax or resin to melt and transfer onto the paper or label.
Watch our video on direct thermal vs. thermal transfer printers.

Thermal printers do not use traditional printer ink. During direct thermal printing, heat is applied to thermo-reactive paper, allowing the paper to change its color where the heat is applied. Thermal transfer printers use ribbons made of wax or resin, not ink, to transfer the desired design onto paper or labels where pressure is applied.

Thermal printers are used in many industries and environments due to their versatility, speed, and efficiency. Some key industries include:

Thermal printhead

The thermal printhead is the most crucial component of any thermal printer. It contains an array of tiny heating elements arranged in a linear pattern. These elements are typically made of a material with high electrical resistance, allowing them to generate heat when an electric current passes through. A higher density of heating elements on the printhead results in increased print resolution, providing a sharper and more detailed output.

  • In direct thermal printing, the heating elements found within the printhead are selectively activated by a controller board in the thermal printer to create the desired text or image onto thermal paper.
  • In thermal transfer printing, the printhead selectively applies heat to specific areas of wax or resin ribbons, allowing the text or image to be transferred directly to your chosen media.

Here is an example of a printhead used in our Brother Titan Industrial Printer:

thermal printer printhead

Platen roller

The platen is a cylindrical roller that feeds and maintains pressure on the printing material (usually paper or labels) causing it to move through the thermal printer. Below is an examples of a platen utilized in our Brother TD 4 desktop thermal printers:

thermal printer platen roller

Motherboard

Like the motherboard in a PC or mobile phone, the motherboard contains firmware to manage the overall operation of the thermal printer, interpreting the data received and coordinating the actions of the printhead and other components.

Sensors

Sensors are utilized within thermal printers to detect the position of the paper, labels, or tags, ensuring accurate and precise printing.

Spring

Utilizing a spring, targeted pressure is applied to the thermal printhead, ensuring continuous contact with the material you are printing on. This helps ensure consistent and effective printing.

Motor

A motor is responsible for driving the movement of the thermal paper or labels through the thermal printer, providing just the right amount of speed to produce an optimal print.

Optional enhancements

When time, consistency, and precision are key to your operation, thermal printers are often paired with accessories like label rewinders, label peelers, label cutters, paper guides, and more. Brother offers a wide range of thermal printer accessories that are built to optimize your workflow.

Printer housing

The housing encases and protects the internal components of the thermal printer, providing a durable and secure structure. Some thermal printer housings are designed to provide protection in harsh environments, withstand accidental drops, or prevent moisture or dust from entering the printer.

The longevity of thermal printing depends on many factors, including the method of thermal printing, the quality of the materials or media used, and the environment in which the thermal print output will be used.

Direct thermal prints typically have a shorter lifespan compared to thermal transfer Because of its use of heat-sensitive paper or labels, the prints are susceptible to fading over time, especially when exposed to heat, light, or environmental factors. Direct thermal printing is generally suitable for short to medium-term applications, such as shipping labels, POS receipts, and police citations. Depending on storage conditions and how the printed item is used, the lifespan of direct thermal prints can vary from several months to a few years.

Thermal transfer prints tend to be more durable and long-lasting compared to direct thermal prints. Because wax or resin is used to produce the printed image or text, thermal transfer prints can traditionally withstand harsher environments and use cases. Suitable for applications like hazard & safety labeling, retail barcode labels, or warehouse storage labels, thermal transfer printing can last for several years under appropriate conditions.

No, regular printer paper cannot be used in a thermal printer. Thermal printers require special thermal paper that is coated with a heat-sensitive layer. The printhead of a thermal printer applies heat to the thermal paper, causing a chemical reaction in the coating that produces the image or text.

Regular printer paper is not coated with the necessary heat-sensitive material, and using it in a thermal printer will not result in any printing. Attempting to use regular paper in a thermal printer may also damage the printhead or other components due to the lack of the required heat-sensitive coating.

It’s important to use the appropriate type of thermal paper specified for your thermal printer to ensure proper functionality and print quality. Brother offers high-quality, field and lab-tested thermal paper, labels, tapes, tags, and ribbons to ensure the best output for your thermal printer.

The most expensive part of a thermal printer is usually the printhead, particularly in printers with advanced features or high-resolution printing capabilities. The thermal printhead is a critical component responsible for applying heat to the thermal paper or ribbon, creating the desired images or text.

Thermal printheads are intricate devices with tiny heating elements, and their precision and durability are essential for high-quality printing. Printheads can be costly to manufacture due to the materials used and the complexity of their design. Additionally, printheads may require occasional replacement due to wear and tear over time, especially in high-volume printing environments.

Brother realizes printhead replacement can be costly and cause unnecessary downtime. To help keep your operation moving, we offer unlimited printhead replacements for your Brother mobile and desktop printers while under warranty. And for our high-volume Industrial tabletop printers, get replacement printheads at up to 56% off the list price while the machine is under warranty. Learn more about our printhead perks.

Choosing between thermal printing and laser printing really depends on the specific uses and needs. Laser printing generally offers higher print quality, making it suitable for detailed documents while thermal printing is faster and more cost-effective for tasks like receipt and barcode printing. Thermal printing has lower upfront and maintenance costs and does not require toner, but prints may fade over time. Laser printing is ideal for high-resolution color prints.

Overall, the choice depends on factors such as print quality, speed, cost, durability, and application needs. With over a century of innovation under our belts, Brother offers a wide array of thermal or laser printers suited for your specific application.

SOFTWARE

Smart solutions for your needs

Implement easily, update seamlessly, and print freely with innovative software and apps.

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BarTender® Label Management Software
Easily design, manage and print your documents, barcode labels and RFID tags with BarTender to improve quality, ensure compliance and reduce IT costs.
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iPrint&Label
Easily print from your iOS® and Android™ devices to a Brother printer using a Wi-Fi® network or Bluetooth® connectivity.
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NiceLabel Label Management System
Easily design barcode labels in minutes using a simple Microsoft® Excel database.
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iPrint&Scan
Print and scan from your iOS® and Android™ devices to a Brother printer or all-in-one using Wi-Fi® or Bluetooth® connectivity.
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TEKLYNX CODESOFT Barcode Label Software
Create barcode labels fast with helpful wizards, an intelligent interface, and robust database connections.
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LabelSuite Design Software
Discover a user-friendly interface, a huge library of templates, and integrated labeling design assistants for the ease and customization it takes to succeed.
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MarkMagic by Cybra
MarkMagic
A total barcode labeling software solution – MarkMagic solves labeling/forms design and printing challenges in one powerful package.
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Brother iLink&Label
Download cable identifiers directly from the cloud and wirelessly send them to Brother P-touch EDGE 550W label printers.
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Mobile Deploy
Perform a complete printer update and configuration using a smart phone or tablet – all with the push of button.
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Mobile Transfer Express
With this app, you can transfer compatible label templates, databases, and images onto a label printer using your mobile device.
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Pro Label Tool
Create labels for telecom, datacom, and electrical identifications on demand. Print from iOS® & Android™ devices to a Brother label printer via wireless network.  
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SAP® Vendor Partner
As a gold-level member of the SAP® Printer Vendor program, Brother enables easy printing to our printers direct from within the SAP® ERP environment.
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Printer Driver
Required to print from a Brother printer, Printer Driver communicates printer driver configuration, manages multiple print jobs, and monitors print status.
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Print SDK Demo
Send and print image files or PDF files from your Android™ device via a Bluetooth®, USB, or Wi-Fi® connection. Compatible with designs and templates created with P-touch Editor.
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SOTI Connect Mobile Device Management
Manage and secure large deployments of printers and other devices with this web-based IoT management solution.
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Microsoft® Office Add-Ins
This toolbar add-on for Microsoft® Word, Excel, and Outlook lets you print custom designed labels with the touch of a button.
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P-touch Editor Design Software
Create custom documents, labels, receipts, tags, and most industry-standard barcodes with this easy-to-use label design software.
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P-touch Library
P-touch Library delivers Windows® desktop file management that saves your P-touch Editor designs, linked database files, and graphic images.
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P-touch Transfer Manager
Convert and transfer your P-touch Editor designs, databases, and printer settings into Brother printers with P-touch Transfer Manager.
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Print Service Plugin
Print directly from your Android™ devices (Android™ 5.0 or later) to your Brother printer through a Wi-Fi® network.
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Support Center
Learn how to set up and troubleshoot your Brother products. Access manuals and FAQs, and get in touch with Brother customer service reps.
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PJ-673 Print
Print PDFs, images, and PRN files from iOS® devices to Brother mobile printers via a Wi-Fi® or MFi Bluetooth® connection.
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RJ-4040 Print
Print PDFs, images, and PRN files from iOS® ​devices to Brother mobile printers via a Wi-Fi® or MFi connection.
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