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The Shortfalls Of Impact Printing For Autoclaves - 7 Reasons Why A Re-Think Is Required

1st January 2020

Autoclaves have played a critical role in microbiology for decades and continue to play a key part in scientific research, surgery, and the development of medicines across the globe. Primarily used as a sterilisation device, they can be used to kill all kinds of bacteria; ensuring equipment is fully sanitised before being used for procedures.

While impact printing has been the preferred option for autoclave engineers and practitioners for many years, there are numerous reasons why a genuine re-think is now required into how printing is integrated into autoclave design and manufacture.

Here we list 7 common issues facing traditional Impact printing methods:

1. Technology

  • Impact printing tech is extremely old and is no longer supported by the majority of manufacturers.
  • Fixing technical issues are costly and can prove counterproductive.

2. Mechanical Process

  • Impact printers have many moving parts including the pins that fire each ink dot onto the paper.
  • This increases the opportunity for the mechanics to fail.

3. Consumables

  • Impact printers have two consumables – ribbon and paper – and are therefore relatively more expensive to operate.
  • Ribbons have limited shelf life and can dry up and, if used infrequently, can deposit messy ink blotches when fired up.

4. End user Experience

  • Impact printers can be complicated to use.
  • They can be extremely fiddly to load paper between the ribbon and the printer.

5. Image Quality

  • Impact printing delivers poorer image quality compared to more modern technology.
  • The image quality can be dramatically affected by media background.

6. Supply

  • Consumables for Impact printers are older and less likely to be stocked by local suppliers.
  • They can therefore become relatively more expensive to source with longer lead-times.

7. Environmental

  • Quality wood-free impact printer paper can be hard to source as mass order volumes do not exist.
  • It can therefore prove disproportionally more expensive than other more modern equivalents.

So what are the alternatives?

Thermal printing offers genuine improvements to your autoclave printing requirements.

Let’s look at some of the advantages that thermal printers offer as well a breaking a few myths:

The advantages of Thermal over Impact printing


Thermal printers are significantly cheaper to operate. They only require paper for printing, compared to the additional cost of ribbon in impact printers and, as they don’t rely on old technology, you won’t be faced with expensive repair bills and scarce tech support resource.

Easier to use 

All our thermal printers incorporate an ‘easy-load’ system meaning replacing the paper is so easy it can be done one-handed!

High quality results

The resolution of printing is significantly better with thermal printers, reducing the risk of blotching, running or fading.

Simple to source

Local stockists are more likely to stock the consumables needed to replenish supplies for thermal printers.

Time for change? 

We appreciate that switching out of traditional impact printing may not be straightforward, particularly if it is embedded into procurement specifications. However, we are finding more and more of our clients are now taking a longer-term view and moving to thermal printing as it provides a much more robust, future-proofed solution – ultimately delivering greater cost efficiencies.

For many, thermal printing has just not been considered due to fears that this method cannot function at some of the extreme temperatures that autoclaves operate at – this is simply not the case. There are numerous ways we can ensure thermal printing delivers you better results than Impact printing. Improved image quality and longer-lasting image resolution are just two areas where we can deliver unexpected results.

Consider Thermal printing at the Design-In stage

Before incorporating an integrated printer into your autoclave, it’s important to consider the following to ensure you get the most from your device:

  • What temperatures will the autoclave be operating at?
  • Are extreme temperatures only released a few seconds after the door is opened?
  • Where should I site my integrated printer?
  • Should I consider a stand-alone or wireless printing solution?

Where clients consult us at the design-in stage, we can recommend the very best location to site a panel printer, such as our Ap1400 model, in order to achieve the results highlighted above.

Ever considered a remote solution?

Further, some clients are now even considering remote wireless printing options, such as our Ap1300 model, sited away from the autoclave.

Able Systems has been providing bespoke small printer solutions throughout the world for over 35 years. If you would like to discuss how we can meet and exceed your autoclave printing requirements please get in touch:

Tel: +44 (0) 160 648 621



Download the 7 Reasons To Move Away From Impact Printing For Autoclaves