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Thermal Paper Buy Rolls Guide

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Thermal paper is a coated paper that requires heat to generate an image. It is coated with chemicals that allow the activation of the chemicals to produce a specific color (usually black) when put in contact with a heat source. This is usually in the form of a thermal printer. A signal is sent from a computer to the printer, converting the data sent to a specific area and temperature that is designed to make direct contact with the thermal coated side of the paper.

There are many uses for thermal papers. They are primarily converted into thermal rolls and have various applications, specific to a printer. Thermal paper rolls are used in debit and credit card machine, in POS point of sale system, in automatic teller machines or ATM, in portable mobile printer and many more. Thermal transaction printers, utilizing thermal paper rolls began rapidly replacing impact printers in the late 1990's.

If you run almost any type of business, you probably need a thermal roll somewhere in your organization. If you just opened a new retail store and don't have a clue yet what you need or or if you are a seasoned buyer, already buying high quality thermal paper at a cheap price, hopefully I can give you a few things to consider.

The first thing you need to determine before you buy thermal paper is the size. Thermal papers come in various sizes or widths. You should know the width of your thermal printer paper so that you will know what size you need to purchase. The length will depend on your budget and the constraints of the printer. You have to be able to close the printer. It is in your best interest to use the longest roll possible for your machine. The longer the thermal paper the more receipts it will produce. Longer rolls amount to a lower cost of thermal paper per foot. They also create fewer rolls changes, resulting in a soft dollar savings; the cost to take the time to find and change the paper, to say nothing about the customer experiencing the wait. If you are a seasoned buyer then I'm sure you noticed your thermal paper getting thinner. It's not cheap paper, the big thermal paper mills like Appleton have been perfecting strong, thinner, thermal paper for years in an effort to get more paper on the rolls, reducing the roll changes, shipping, plastic core and corrugated expenses and ultimately reducing the price of thermal paper significantly. So, for all you veteran buyers of paper rolls still using 3 1/8 x 230 thermal paper in your machines, you really should consider using the 3 1/8 x 273. It will fit and save you time and money in a pure expense item.

Second thing to consider is the quantity of the purchase. If you are running a small store with minimal transactions then you probably only need a single case of 50 rolls or less. Consider that the price of thermal paper is cheaper when buying multiple cases at a time. Look for free shipping even at 1 case and bulk discounts beginning at just 2 cases The shelf life, if stored in a cool dry place is between 3-5 years. You certainly do not want to run out and have to go to an office supplies store, ever.

That leaves us with quality, service and price. 

Quality thermal paper will produce a clear, dark image on a bright white paper. The paper should be manufactured to the printer manufacturers specifications and in most cases should be OEM approved for use. If handled correctly, the paper should not fade or become invisible very quickly. Top thermal paper mills are Appleton, Hansol, Mitsubishi, Kanzaki and Koehler. There are some less known and unseen considerations as well. Many cheap papers, not approved by the OEM and not named above will leave a chemical residue after each and every pass. You don't see it, but one day you notice that your printer is producing lighter and often blotchy images. You often can't clean away this residue, the print head is damaged and it's time for a new printer or print head, the most expensive part in your printer. 

Quality also means you should get the length you pay for! This game has been going on forever but seems much worse lately. I have seen websites of the largest paper roll converters in the world stating "Roll lengths are slit to tight tolerances of +/-3% of the stated length". Modern equipment or even older equipment, calibrated correctly, can run within inches of a stated length. I challenge you to find rolls that are plus 3%. I know you will find rolls that are short. If you are buying your paper from an online auction site or an ecommerce superstore, it truly is anyone's guess what length you are getting. I have personally seen 230' rolls be 190'. I have seen the cases labeled as 3 1/8" x 230' and still be anywhere between 3 1/8 x 190 and 3 1/8 x 220. I had a supplier tell me recently that one of his customers selling 3 1/8 x 230' thermal paper on both an online auction site and an ecommerce superstore asked him to label the product as such even though they were buying 190' rolls. The supplier told me they refused and finally the customer told them to label the cases 3 1/8" x 3" Thermal Paper or 3 1/8" (80mm) thermal paper. There are also some offshore imported thermal rolls out there using thicker paper to bulk up the roll diameter to appear to be the proper length. Okay, enough on this, measure your rolls, spot check them and call your supplier out if they are short.

Basically, you should be able to place your online, phone or fax order and forget about it until the next time you need to reorder. If needed, chat online or speak to someone by phone at your supplier that knows significantly more than you do about the product being sold.

Low prices, quality product and top service is out there. Find a manufacturer or dealer that you trust. 

Trust but verify is a prudent piece of advice given to me years ago. It has served me well.

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