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Some roll applications use a form of what is known as “bond” papers. Bond papers used in printers with ribbons are called “form bond” or “tablet” depending on the finish of the sheet.

Bond papers require the use of some sort of impact system to apply ink to the paper. Most common are ribbons where ink is applied to a strip of fabric or film, which is spooled onto a reel or into a cartridge. The ink is actually transferred to the paper in the printer by means of an impact process using keys or small needles hitting the ribbon to the point of touching the paper.

Print colors are limited to the colors pre-inked onto the ribbon, most commonly black, black & red, or purple.


  • Inexpensive supplies
  • Capable of simple graphics.
  • Shelf life of paper maximized.
  • Technology less expensive up front
  • Image life expanded.


  • Image quality varies with age and use of ribbon
  • More complex maintenance of equipment:, Ribbons require changing, Printheads require regular cleaning.
  • More downtime due to maintenance.
  • Less able to withstand wide-ranging weather conditions.
  • Will not operate without ribbon.
  • Greater inventory management issues.


Paper can also be coated with a variety of substances that affect its ability to be printed or written upon. Printing papers use a coating designed to keep the ink on the surface and the edges of the image sharp. This is referred to as a “passive” coating.

The inkjet process uses liquid or gel inks in cartridges with a separate nozzle for each color.

Most inkjet printers us 4 colors (magenta, cyan, yellow, and black) although there are some printers that use more. The 4 colors are the same as those used in the printing industry to produce a broad spectrum of colors, called process color to reproduce realistic, lifelike images.


  • Full color graphics
  • Crisp, clear image.
  • Extended image life.


  • More expensive consumables: coated paper and ink cartridges.
  • More complex maintenance: Cartridges require changing, Printheads require regular cleaning.
  • More downtime due to maintenance
  • Less able to withstand wide-ranging weather conditions.
  • Will not operate without cartridges (all must have ink and be functional for the printer to work).
  • Greater inventory management required.

Direct Thermal

There are other coatings that have particular impact on various roll applications. These are known as “active” coatings. The most common is known as “thermal.”

Direct thermal is a specialty form of ribbonless technology. It utilizes a heat-sensitive coating that, when brought in contact with a thermal printhead generates a deep black or in some cases a color image.

Thermal printers and papers come in a variety of heat sensitivities designed for specific applications.


  • Few moving parts in the printer minimizes trouble issues.
  • No variation of image from beginning to end of roll.
  • Maintenance cost and cost of replacement printheads low.
  • Maintenance time minimized.
  • Will perform in any climate or atmosphere conditions as long as paper is enclosed.


  • Base paper more expensive than bond, about the same as inkjet coated.
  • Susceptible to image fading without proper handling and storage.
  • Does not have the “feel” of “plain”, bond, or inkjet papers.
  • Image and coatings susceptible to damage by sunlight, solvents, plasticizers, body fluids, carbonless papers, friction, and even other thermal papers.

How to store thermal papers safely

Avoid direct sunlight. Most papers tend to yellow in direct sunlight. Thermal especially so. The printed image also tends to fade when exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods. Thermal paper images also tend to fade when left exposed to conventional fluorescent light for extended periods. To keep the image intact, file as soon as reasonably possible.

Avoid hot or humid environments for long-term storage. Although thermal can be used in hot and/or humid environments, it is best to store imaged papers at temperatures lower than 80° F and a relative humidity lower than 65%.

Thermal rolls may be stored for the short term at higher temperatures, it is best that for long-term storage the same criteria are used.

Thermal coatings begin to activate (develop color and image) in printers between 140° F and 210° F and reach full color density at between 160° F and 240° F. Blanket activation has occurred under extended atmospheric conditions of high temperature or humidity. If thermal papers are to be used continuously, e.g. for more than 24 hours, at temperatures exceeding 105° F, be sure to pay attention to ambient temperature and humidity as well.

Avoid contact with plasticizers such as PVC. PVC contains plasticizers such as phthalate to increase flexibility. However, prolonged contact with PVC reduces the image forming ability of the coating and causes printed images to fade.

Phthalates are also found in adhesive cellophane tapes, causing image fade. If you need to stick thermal paper to something and you are not using MAXStick, use double-sided tape on the back of the thermal sheet.

Some thermal papers have wax-type coatings which may contain plasticizers as well. Do not store conventional thermal papers together.

Avoid contact with solvents or solvent-type adhesives. If you operate in an environment where solvents, especially organic, or solvent-based adhesives such as acetone, alcohols, ethanol, methyl acetate, turpentine, ketones, esters, etc. are used, be careful in handling thermal media. These substances can cause color formation and damage to image.

Also avoid:

Body fluids such as sweat can cause the printed image to fade.

Friction, scratching, or pressure from fingernails, paper clips, hard plastic or metal objects can cause images to develop obstructing the printed image.

Images that face one another can transfer images. Store thermal sheets and tapes with the images away from one another.Direct contact with carbon and carbonless papers. Either can cause thermal images to fade or reduce printability of the roll.

Label Stock

Until recently, on-demand labels were primarily created by printing on flat sheets.  This required that for a single label an entire sheet must be used, the balance of the sheet often wasted.

However, the need for mobility and flexibility in a number of industries required the development of roll stock on which could be printed the necessary information with variable lengths.Therefore, label producers began to put adhesive on the back of thermal paper rolls. 

This new format, however, required the use of a silicone coated liner to prevent the adhesive from adhering both to the paper below and whatever parts of the printer it touched.This liner has ended up creating its own problems, not to mention the fact that, while the label did adhere properly where it was placed, it became problematic to remove when desired.>When the label was removed, at worst it potentially damaged the surface to which it was stuck and at best left a difficult to remove residue of adhesive and/or paper or coating.

To this day this is the primary type of on-demand label used throughout the world.  Since the base stock for on-demand roll labels is some form of thermal paper, it has all the advantages and disadvantages of thermal plus the following:


  • Will adhere to almost any surfac
  • Remains in place and cannot be removed without evidence of removal
  • Can be used in both stationary and mobile printers


  • Liner increases thickness of label unit limiting the number of labels per roll
  • Requires roll to be changed
  • Liner usually made with silicon, which requires special disposal techniques
  • Liner also requires additional space while awaiting disposal
  • Liner is neither recyclable nor biodegradable
  • Since labels are die cut on the roll, no change in size can be made without changing the entire roll

MAXStick Labels

Liner-free, removable, repositionable roll labels

A revolutionary new product that combines all the advantages of thermal printing technology with an ability to stay precisely where you put it over and over again without a liner!

Exclusive to MAX International, MAXStick helps reduce order and delivery errors in quick service restaurants with its ability to stay consistently with the order as a check reference for handlers.

MAXStick prevents loss of medical diagnostic results by ensuring that the strips printed remain wherever they are put.

In distribution, retail and other inventory systems, MAXStick allows easy, residue-free removal of the label with the security of the ability to stay in place as long as needed.

MAXStick comes in colors for easy color-coding and variable tacks that meet the requirements of most applications.

MAXStick is recyclable and biodegradable, and, having no liner, requires no special treatment for waste.

MAXStick utilizes special coatings to enable usage in most existing thermal printers, without or with minimal modification.


  • Works in many POS printers as well as label printers with little or no modification.
  • Error reduction results show increased profits.
  • In quick service applications, waste is reduced dramatically.
  • Maintenance reduction the same as standard thermal product.
  • Can be used in a wide range of temperature and atmospheric situations.
  • Utilizes a proprietary, truly repositionable adhesive that stays where it is stuck until you move it, then retains adhesive ability as long as needed.
  • Has no liner to create disposal issues.
  • May be used wherever linered or linerless labels would be used and require removal.
  • Ideal for inventory applications.


  • Does not work in every printer
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