Receipts are an integral part of any transaction, as they serve as proof that the transaction has been completed. While the popularity of digital receipts is certainly on the rise, physical receipts are a staple part of point of sale (POS) systems. Apart from confirming the completion of the transaction, receipts are used for exchange or refund of items, and for warranty purposes. Even with a digital receipt, many times a physical receipt will also be provided to customers.
Early forms of receipts were handwritten, however, as printing technology evolved and printers became more affordable, printed receipts replaced handwritten versions. In comparison to handwritten receipts, printed receipts were faster, accurate, efficient, safer from tampering and also helpful for branding purposes. Apart from customer receipts, printed receipts are used by businesses as proof of transaction or payment. Restaurants often use additional receipts within the business for the kitchen or bar to keep track of orders.
Regardless of preferences for digital receipts, physical receipts are still a necessity especially for customers that would rather not share their email addresses. For fast and effective receipt printing, a receipt printer is a necessary part of your POS setup. A receipt printer can last for years and involves an investment, and so it is important to carefully select the receipt printer for your business needs. Here is a complete guide on how to choose the right receipt printer.
What is a Receipt Printer?
A receipt printer is a printer designed specifically for the printing of receipts, and is a standard part of a typical POS system. These printers are made for fast and accurate printing with minimal downtime so that they can support POS systems throughout the working day. Reliability and speed are essential to print receipts quickly and prevent long waiting times or crowds at the checkout point.
Typically, printing resolution and durability are not an issue since the goal is primarily to have a legible printing quality and lifespan of up to a year. Printing colours are generally black on white receipt rolls, but some printers support monochromatic receipts. Depending upon your business needs, there are receipt printers available with greater printing resolution and better durability. Printing of multiple copies of a single receipt at the same time is possible with the appropriate printing technology and rolls, although the printing resolution may worsen.
Receipt printers are commonly linked with the cash drawer and print automatically when a transaction is completed. The printers can, however, be integrated with the POS operating system directly, or even with external POS devices. There are receipt printers available in a wide range of price points and sizes, that can fit into any budget and space. The printing technology used by the receipt printer influences its ability to withstand specific environments, for example warmer restaurant/kitchen areas.
Types of Receipt Printers
Receipt printers are broadly categorised on the basis of the printing technology used. While all receipt printers are designed to be fast and reliable, other characteristics such as printing quality and required surroundings tend to vary. The cost of purchase and total cost of ownership depends upon the printing technology. The most commonly available printing technologies used for receipt printer are impact printing, thermal printing and inkjet printing.
If you require multiple receipt printers, you can experiment with different types and models, or keep them uniform throughout. Offering a uniform shopping experience is important for customer facing receipt printers while you can experiment with internal receipt printers.
1. Impact or Dot Matrix Printers
One of the most popular types of receipt printers currently available are impact printers, also known as dot matrix printers. First developed in 1925, impact printing uses technology similar to classic typewriters or line printers. Although most commercial printers do not use impact printing technology due to the low resolution of prints, they are still popular for printing receipts.
An impact printer uses a printhead with a dot matrix that moves across the paper roll to create the print by force of impact, striking the ribbon against the paper. Since the prints are created using impact, multiple copies of a single receipt can be printed at the same time with a layer of carbon paper between the paper roll. The printhead can have anywhere between 9 to 24 pins, and the higher number of pins, the greater clarity and printing resolution.
These printers primarily print in either black or red coloured ink, depending upon the ribbon, and are generally suited for printing on thin papers. Apart from numbers and letters, impact printers can also create basic graphics, based on the number of pins in the printhead. Impact printers are the least expensive type of receipt printer and have low operating costs, but the printing process can be loud. As the printing technology is not affected by the surrounding temperature, they are suited for outdoor or kitchen environments.
- Low initial purchase cost
- Durable and reliable
- Simple to use
- Long lasting ribbons
- Can make multiple copies
- Capable of withstanding warm environments such as kitchens, outdoors, and food trucks
- Low printing resolution
- Loud printing
- Limited support for coloured printing
Some of our top recommended impact/dot matrix receipt printers are the Epson TM-U220 Receipt Printer, the Star SP712 Receipt Printer, and the Epson TM-U220B Receipt Printer.
2. Thermal Printers
Among one of the most popular printing technologies used commercially is thermal printing, with applications in a wide range of industries. Initially developed in the 1970s, thermal printers are used for general printing, labelling and receipt purposes. Thermal printers use heated printheads to create the desired pattern on the printing medium. There are two types of thermal printers available, direct thermal printers and thermal transfer printers. While both use heated printheads, their method of printing and properties are different.
A direct thermal printer uses specialised heat-sensitive printing material. When the printhead is heated, it reacts with the printing material to directly form the design, without the need of any inks or ribbons. A thermal transfer printer uses heat-sensitive ribbons that react to a heated printhead to form the desired pattern on the printing material. Direct thermal printing creates printouts with high clarity but limited shelf life and durability. Thermal transfer printouts are durable and colourful but expensive.
Although thermal transfer printers are used for more durable receipts, thermal receipt printers generally have direct thermal printing technology. As receipts are typically printed in black or at the most with monochrome and have a limited required lifespan, direct thermal printers meet these needs perfectly. Direct thermal printers are also less expensive than thermal transfer printers. Overall, thermal receipt printers are fast, quiet and compact, and create high clarity sharp printouts, making them suited for receipt printing. However, thermal printers are not suited for environments with high temperatures such as kitchens or outdoors.
- Fast printing speed
- Easy to maintain
- Long lasting
- Quiet printing
- High clarity and sharp printing quality
- Relatively lightweight
- Expensive initial purchase cost
- Not suited for warm environments
- Repairs and replacement of parts can be costly
Some of our top recommended thermal receipt printers are the Star TSP143III Thermal Receipt Printer, Epson TM-T82 Intelligent Printer, Epson TM-M30 Bluetooth Receipt Printer, Star TSP143III USB Thermal Receipt Printer and the Bixolon SRP-330II Thermal Receipt Printer.
3. Inkjet Printers
Developed in the 1950s, Inkjet printers are currently the most commonly used type of printer for a wide array of consumer and commercial applications. An inkjet printer can create high resolution graphics, images and text using propulsion technology, and were. Droplets of ink are propelled onto the printing material, papers or plastics, to create the desired patterns. While the printers themselves are available in a vast range of price points, the cost of replacing the ink cartridges can be substantial.
Compared to impact printers and thermal printers, inkjet printers are used less frequently for printing of receipts. As liquid is propelled onto the printing material, it requires adequate drying time slowing down the overall printing process. Wet receipts handed to customers risks smudging. Inkjet printers are usually larger in size, making it difficult to incorporate into a compact POS station. As the ink cartridges would need to be replaced frequently if the inkjet printer were used for receipts, it would raise operating costs significantly.
However, an inkjet printer can be used for printing receipts if you have a low volume of customers and want to create colourful and high-quality receipts. For specialised boutiques or service providers where there is enough time for the receipts to print and dry, an inkjet printer can be used as a receipt printer. Due to the excellent printing quality of inkjet printers, coupons, barcodes, images and graphics can all be incorporated into the receipt, serving as a powerful tool for branding. If you are launching a new business and want to print traditional and fast receipts, an existing inkjet printer can be used until you find a more suitable printer.
- Excellent printing quality
- Support of vibrant colours
- Low initial cost of purchase
- Versatile applications
- Slow printing
- Requires time to dry
- Frequent replacement of expensive ink cartridges
Factors to Consider to Choose the Right Receipt Printer
Even after understanding the different types of receipt printers available, it is important to consider the receipt printer that best suits your business needs. Each receipt printer has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and by examining your printing requirements you can find the best receipt printer for you.
Regardless of which receipt printer you choose, make sure that you purchase it from a reputed seller and a recognised brand. A reliable seller can help you find the ideal receipt printer for your business needs, and that too within your budget. A good quality receipt printer is an investment that will help you offer your customers good quality receipts for years to come.
Here are the top factors to consider to choose the right receipt printer:
- Receipt Quality
The desired final receipt quality is one of the most important factors that should influence your choice of receipt printer. Apart from recording transactions, receipts can be used for branding purposes, as coupons, for returns and exchanges and more. Each type of receipt printer produces a different quality of receipt. Consider your customer base and business needs to identify the expectations from a receipt. How long do you want the receipts to last? What durability is required? What information will be printed on the receipts? Do they need to be in colour or will single tones suffice? What is the required printer resolution? Do you need to print multiple copies of a single receipt?
For basic receipt quality and low-quality images with a maximum of two colours, an impact receipt printer can suffice, creating average receipts that have decent durability. Based on the number of pins in the impact receipt printer, the supported printing resolution will vary. As ink is used to print the receipt pattern, these receipts are more resistant to smudging and smearing than thermal printers.
If you need sharper and higher clarity receipts, thermal printers are a good option, as long as the environment is not exposed to heat. If the receipts do not require extensive durability or a long-life span and can manage with a single colour, a direct thermal receipt printer can be used. To create colourful and long-lasting sturdy receipts, a thermal transfer printer would be suitable. Although thermal transfer printers are good for creating high resolution and quality colour images, for photo image quality and wider range of colours, an inkjet printer is ideal. However, inkjet printing takes time and printouts have limited durability.
- Connectivity & Compatibility
For a seamless point of sale solution, it is vital that all the different POS hardware components be fully compatible with each other. This includes the POS operating system, monitors, cash drawer, barcode scanner, EFTPOS, and receipt printer. If you already have a POS system or selected POS hardware components, check their connectivity options for the receipt printer. If you are setting up a new POS system, make sure that the receipt printer has multiple connectivity interfaces available and it has good general compatibility.
The type of interface a receipt printer supports will depend upon the model of the printer. Every printing technology will have printer models by top brands with varying interface capabilities. Popular interface options are serial ports, parallel ports, USB, Ethernet, Wireless, and Bluetooth. Serial ports are simple and inexpensive, parallel connectivity is faster and easy to connect, USB is widely supported and highly adaptable. Ethernet is suited for longer distances; wireless and Bluetooth remove dependence on wires altogether.
Consider the age of your POS components and how frequently you plan to upgrade the technology. If compatible, investing in newer forms of interface will give you a POS system that is more future-proof and adaptable to new components. Apart from the POS hardware, you also need to check that the receipt printer is compatible with the POS software you are using.
- Printer Size and Environment
With advancements in technology, receipt printers are now more compact and robust than ever, to suit all kinds of POS setups. Receipt printers are available in a wide range of sizes. The size of the receipt printer depends upon the width of the receipts to be printed and the printer size itself based on the printing technology used. The most common receipt widths are 2-inch, 2.25-inch, 3-inch and 4-inch. Impact and thermal printers are available in smaller sizes, whereas inkjet printers tend to be larger in size.
Receipt printers can be kept on the counter or even installed vertically. For smaller POS setups, you can try out small-sized receipt printers for a minimal footprint, while larger receipt printers are suitable for spacious POS checkouts. Smaller sized receipt printers do save space, but larger receipt printers offer greater stability.
The surrounding environment should be considered when choosing a receipt printer. For environments where higher temperatures are expected, such as restaurant kitchens or food trucks or outdoor stalls, thermal printers are not advisable and impact printers are more suitable. In quiet surroundings, impact printers can be expected to create more noise while thermal printers will be quieter. If the printer will be in open view of the public, a sleek and elegant model can help blend into the décor and ambiance.
- Printer Mobility
Traditionally, printers have been known to be bulky and complex with multiple wires making movement difficult. However, receipt printers have evolved significantly and as the trend for mobile POS systems or mPOS grows, receipt printers are available with greater mobility. Receipt printers no longer necessarily have to be fixed in one place and can be taken easily to wherever needed. They are an ideal complement to an mPOS setup, allowing you to conduct transactions in any location.
Mobile receipt printers typically have either impact or thermal printing technology. There are multiple benefits of having a mobile receipt printer. Wireless connectivity options and Bluetooth reduce the requirement for messy wires and enable multiple POS devices or systems to utilise a single receipt printer. It gives staff flexibility to move around and respond faster to customers, supporting impulse buys and increasing profits. Good quality receipt printers are lightweight and easy to carry with a long battery life.
Even though mobile receipt printers have several benefits, they do have their disadvantages. A mobile receipt printer tends to be more expensive than a traditional stationary receipt printer. Due to being small and lightweight, mobile receipt printers are often not as sturdy as stationary printers, and tend to have more breakdowns. Charging a mobile printer is an added task and poor connectivity can cause problems in certain environments. A stationary receipt printer is robust and long lasting, and well suited for fixed POS systems.
- User Friendliness
For every component of your POS system, hardware and software, the user friendliness should be a factor to consider especially for the receipt printer. Every transaction will end with a receipt and while people may be familiar on working with smart device operating systems, a receipt printer can be new territory. Whether you have long-standing staff and low employee turnover, or frequently changing staff, having an easy to operate receipt printer will reduce errors and speed up transactions, thereby saving time.
The user friendliness of a receipt printer depends more on the specific brand and model of the receipt printer rather than its technology. Mobile receipt printers are typically more complex than stationary receipt printers and require practice and knowledge to integrate them with POS devices. Stationary receipt printers are easier to use and only need integration once and after that they can be used directly. Once the receipt printer has been properly integrated with the overall POS system, operating the receipt printer is simple. After setting up a basic template with desired details, transactional data is automatically sent to the receipt printer to produce the receipt.
Apart from the basic operations, the process of re-loading consumables such as paper rolls and ribbons should also be easy so that any employee can make the change when needed. New styles of ‘drop in and load’ paper rolls save time and are easy for anyone to operate. An impact receipt printer will require ribbon and paper changes while a direct thermal receipt printer will need only changes of paper rolls.
- Printing Speed
In fast paced business environments, especially when there are large numbers of customers, it is important that the checkouts move swiftly and with no delays or problems. The receipt is printed only after the payment is completed and so adequate speed is required to complete the transaction quickly without forcing customers to wait. As receipts are variable in length, they come in a single roll and every receipt needs to be torn off for each customer. Many receipt printers now have an auto-cutter to automatically and cleanly cut off the receipt, while others have a traditional tear bar requiring manual removal of each receipt. An auto-cutter can help improve the speed and accuracy of separating receipts.
Thermal receipt printers, especially those that use direct thermal printing technology, have a fast-printing speed and are quiet. Impact or dot matrix receipt printers are reasonably fast but can be a bit loud. While thermal receipt printers can have a speed of up to 250mm per second, impact receipt printers can produce up to 8.9 lines per second. Inkjet printing takes a considerable amount of time, both in the printing process and for drying of the ink. Accordingly, inkjet receipt printers are only recommended for businesses where customers have enough time to wait for the lengthy receipt printing process.
If you need to print multiple copies of a single receipt, then an impact receipt printer will be the better choice. There are carbonised 2-ply paper rolls and carbonised 3-ply paper rolls available for impact receipt printers. With these specialised carbon paper rolls, extra copies of the same receipt can be printed simultaneously by an impact receipt printer. Even with the faster printing speed of thermal printers, it will take more time and resources to print two independent copies of a single receipt.
- Printer Maintenance
Proper maintenance is the key to any optimally functioning and long-lasting piece of equipment, including receipt printers. The frequency and degree of maintenance for a receipt printer depends upon the printing technology it has. In general, it is advisable to clean the outside of the receipt printer at the end of each workday, and clean the interiors when the ribbon or paper roll is being changed. This prevents the accumulation of dust that can otherwise damage the receipt printer. Not using a receipt printer for extended periods of time can be damaging, so try to print at least once a week if it is not being used full-time. Always use good quality and compatible paper rolls and ribbons.
Impact and inkjet receipt printers generally require more maintenance than thermal receipt printers. An impact receipt printer has a long life and can perform without issues with regular cleaning after ribbon and paper changes. An impact printer generates a large amount of paper dust that when accumulated can damage the pins on the printhead. While the printheads in general are durable, if the pins get damaged, replacing the printhead would be needed. Since inkjet printers use liquid propulsion technology, regular use is important to prevent the ink from drying. Lowered printing quality is a sign that the inkjet printhead is dirty and as it is delicate; it needs to be cleaned carefully. The printer wipers also need to be cleaned and replaced once they wear out.
Thermal receipt printers, especially direct thermal have low maintenance requirements apart from regular cleaning. As a direct thermal receipt printer doesn’t use any ribbons or ink, there are less chances of malfunctions. However, there are higher chances of build-up on the printhead as it directly faces the printing medium. The printhead should be cleaned carefully and thoroughly with approved cleaners when the paper roll is changed, while avoiding touching the delicate printhead directly. Keeping thermal receipt printers away from heat and cold can extend the life of the printhead.
Before planning to purchase a receipt printer, it will help to have an understanding of the costs to expect so that you can form an appropriate budget. Receipt printers come in a wide range of prices, from $180 to $800. The costs depend upon the printing technology used, and also on whether the receipt printer is stationary or mobile. Impact or dot matrix printers are the least expensive type of receipt printers, followed by thermal printers. General inkjet printers are available in a wide price range, but are not suited for bulk receipt printing. Mobile receipt printers are more expansive than stationary printers. It is worthwhile to invest in a good quality receipt printer that has positive reviews so that the printer will operate well in years to come.
Analyse how many receipt printers you need when you plan your budgeting. If you have multiple POS terminals and checkouts, you may need multiple receipt printers. Restaurants often require multiple receipt printers, with separate printers for internal receipts for the kitchens, in which case impact printers and thermal printers can be used in combination.
When considering a receipt printer, check the reliability specifications it has. The MTBF indicates the mean time between failures, is an estimate by the manufacturer of how many hours the printer can operate before a failure. For receipt printers with auto-cutters, check the MCBF or mean cuts between failures, that indicates the number of cuts the printer can support before failing.
Apart from the cost of the receipt printer, factor in costs of consumables such as paper rolls and ribbons or inks. Direct thermal receipt printers have expensive paper rolls but you save costs on ribbons and inks as they are not required. Impact printers have long lasting ribbons and the plain paper rolls are less expensive, resulting in low cost of operations. However, for printing multiple copies of receipts, the specialised carbon paper rolls can be a bit more expensive. Inkjet printers have by far the most expensive ink and require frequent changes.
A receipt printer is a necessary part of every POS system, and the right receipt printer can help you improve operational efficiency and provide customers with faster transactions. Since it does involve an investment, especially if you need multiple receipt printers, it is important that you carefully choose the right receipt printer for your business needs.
The most popular types of receipt printers are impact printers and thermal printers, although inkjet printers are also occasionally used. When selecting a receipt printer, consider your desired receipt quality, connectivity, printer size, printing environment, printing speed, required maintenance and overall costs. Buy only from reputed sellers to make sure you are purchasing a good quality receipt printer.
At POS Plaza, we have a wide selection of receipt printers available, including thermal receipt printers, impact/dot matrix receipt printers, mobile receipt printers and specialised kitchen printers. Here you can also find good quality consumables for an existing or new receipt printer. Reach out to us today to discuss your POS and receipt printing needs.