The Complete Guide to EPOS Printers
The majority of businesses are going to need at least one kind of printer.
Retailers may only need a receipt printer, whereas a restaurant would usually need at least one printer for customer receipts and an impact printer for kitchen orders - it really depends on your type of business and the requirements you have.
Types of Printers
Thermal Receipt Printers (for Customer Receipts)
Thermal receipt printers don’t need ink.
Instead they use a special paper that blackens when the thermal print-head applies heat to its surface.
The majority of customer receipt printers are thermal, however they are not suitable for high-heat environments (e.g. Kitchens).
Impact Printers (for Kitchen Environments)
Impact printers use ink to print receipts and typically print in both black and red.
They’re commonly used in kitchen environments to print food orders due to their resilience to high-heat, unlike thermal printers, and the loud noise that’s produced when they print orders.
Label Printers (Used in Both Retail & Hospitality)
Quickly print labels, stickers and adhesive tags which can be easily stuck directly onto product packaging.
Label printers are commonly used in retail, hospitality and service environments.
A4 Printers (for Larger Receipts & Invoices)
A4 printers are commonly used in the service industries, such as repair services or consulting, where providing customers with a larger form invoice is the norm.
These types of printers usually lack direct integration with point of sale software, and instead rely on direct connection to a PC, or wireless AirPrint printing.
Printer Connection Method
Before we look at the different types of printers, it’s important to take note of the different ways printers can connect to your point of sale system.
This is one of the quickest and easiest interface methods, you simply plug your POS device, which might be an iPad or tablet, directly into the printer using your iPad or tablet’s charging cable.
It prints very quickly due to the direct connection but has one major downside - you have to keep your POS device connected to the printer in order for it to work (which means no wireless printing).
-Easy to connect & install
-Typically cheapest interface method
-Good for small outlets & food trucks
-Requires wired connection
This interface method is commonly confused with the WiFi interface method.
LAN based printers must be plugged into your internet router through an ethernet cable, which then connect to your POS device wirelessly over the WiFi network.
How is this different from WiFi printers, you might ask?
Well, WiFi printers connect to your POS device AND internet router through WiFi alone, without the need for an ethernet (LAN) cable.
See this image for a visual representation:
The main benefit of using a LAN interface printer over a WiFi printer is the improved reliability.
This is due to ethernet cable physically connecting the printer to the internet router, as opposed to the printer relying solely on the WiFi to connect to both the POS and the internet router.
But what if my internet stops working? Don’t sweat it.
LAN printers work by sending and receiving information over the WiFi network - a connection to the internet isn’t required for this to work.
-Requires wired connection to WiFi router
WiFi printers are completely wireless (aside from the power cable), and connect to both your POS terminal and router through the WiFi network alone.
These are preferred to LAN printers when wired access to the router is prohibited in some way.
New users might find these printers a little trickier to set up as you need to wirelessly pair your printer with your router. The reward, however, is one less cable to deal with!
-Trickier to connect for new users
Bluetooth receipt printers pair with your POS terminal through... you guessed it... Bluetooth!
They’re very easy to connect and set up but there are some disadvantages.
Bluetooth isn’t the most stable connection method, terminals can only connect to one printer at a time (although you can have several terminals connected to the same Bluetooth printer), and the more devices you have connected to one Bluetooth printer the more unstable the connection will become.
However, Bluetooth printers, similar to USB interface printers, work well for smaller businesses that may only need one or two receipt printers, but want the flexibility of being able to freely move around, which the USB interface model prevents.
-Not suitable if higher number of printers are required
-Limited connection abilities
Some of the newer POS receipt printers are multi-interface, meaning a single printer can connect via some or all of the methods mentioned above.
For example, the Star Micronics mC-Print3 and the Epson TM-m30, are both multi-interface and cover all connection types between them!
If you’re unsure of what kind of printer you’ll need, one of these might be a good option as they can adapt to virtually any operating environment.
-Typically more expensive than single-interface printers (by not by much!)
AirPrint Printers (Compatible with iOS Only)
AirPrint is an Apple technology that enables Apple devices (iPads, iPhones, iMacs) to print over the Wi-Fi network, directly to an AirPrint-compatible printer.
Almost all new A4 printers contain AirPrint technology (but only a select few receipt printers have AirPrint).
To see whether your printer supports AirPrint, check the make and model number against this list.
-Easy to use
What Do We Recommend?
The multi-interface printers are a clear winner for us.
They’re so adaptable and can be implemented in a range of environments. Plus, the ability to connect to your point of sale terminal in several ways is incredibly useful.
The Star Micronics mC-Print3 is a particularly fast and reliable printer that can connect via USB, LAN and Bluetooth (depending on the model), and will work seamlessly with most EPOS systems, including Tillpoint!