There are mainly two types of print heads used in thermal printers: the traditional flat head and the near-edge technology that is sometimes designated as corner edge or true edge. Let’s see what differentiates the two.

In simple terms, the main difference between these two print head technologies resides in the way the print head actually makes contact with the ribbon and the media (label, tag, etc.). With the flat head technology, as you might have guessed, the print head lies flat against the ribbon and the media. With this technology, the ribbon and media remain “together” for some distance after going under the print head’s heating element, prior to their separation (Figure A). With the near edge technology, the print head makes contact at an angle with the ribbon and the media. Also, the heating elements are near the edge of the print head, so the ribbon and media only remain together for a very brief moment before separating (Figure B).

Near-edge technology requires thermal transfer ribbons that are specifically designed to handle the angled print head contact and the associated rapid ribbon/media separation. My colleague Stéphane talked about this in one of his blog posts. If the right ribbon, media and printer combination is not respected, print quality issues are likely to occur, and print head life will be compromised.

There is a very wide range of printing needs in the commercial, retail and industrial sectors and despite the fact that traditional flat head technology used by manufacturers like Zebra can fulfill most of those needs, the near edge technology used by manufacturers like Toshiba TEC give us a solid alternative which is sometimes the best choice! Simply tell us your need, and we will select the best technology for you!

And don’t forget to clean your print head on a regular basis, at least every time you replace the ribbon! Also, you should get your printer serviced periodically, at least once a year. This will not only insure an optimized print quality, but it will also maximize your print head life reducing your cost of operation!