Nice article by Tim Maley over on Wired overviewing the different recent developments in tiny printers and their surrounding technologies:
You’d know thermal printers as the things that receipts come from. They work by selectively heating up parts of thermochromic paper. The parts that are warmed up turn black, the rest stay white. There’s a lot to recommend them: They don’t need ink; they are cheap to run; they’re fast, quiet, and reliable; it’s easy to replace the paper. This is why so many cash registers use them, along with shipping labellers, and undersea explorers.
“Recently, a few accidents of implementation gave more life to my tinkerings than I had originally intended.” So begins James Adam’s introduction to Go Free Range’s Printer, an open source kit “for exploring the possibilities of internet-of-things printing.” He adds two more reasons to dig thermal printers. First, their serial port makes it easy for hardware hackers to work with them. Second, “thermal printers are smaller than normal printers, which makes them seem far less intimidating and more playful.”