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The Difference Between Bond and Thermal Paper

thermal paper

If you are purchasing paper rolls, you most likely need them for a POS cash register, eftpos machine or adding machine. Many people become confused when it comes to choosing what paper roll they need for their printer. There are two common types:


They are small (1 1/2″ to 3 1/4″) wide rolls of thin paper that look the same. One of the key things you need to identify is whether you need thermal rolls (for a thermal printer) or regular bond paper rolls which require a ribbon. Although they make look similar, both are unique in their features, uses and their price – so let us help you identify the differences and tell them apart when making your next purchase.

Because thermal rolls look almost identical to bond paper rolls, it’s important you are able to distinguish between the two. Thermal rolls have an almost slick surface and can be difficult to write on with a pen, whereas regular paper rolls feel like ordinary copy paper. Since the dye appears with heat, the swipe of a finger nail can produce a black mark on the surface of thermal paper.

Bond Paper Rolls

These paper rolls do not contain a chemical coating and are much like regular copy paper with a matte finish. Bond paper rolls come in single, dual and triple ply – making them hugely popular in hospitality and retail workspaces. Bond paper rolls are essential to businesses that require multiple copies of the same receipts, which is where the variation in single, dual and triple can make a huge difference. 

Thermal Rolls

Thermal printers require thermal paper – simple right? But what is thermal paper and how does it work? Thermal paper is different to regular bond paper in that it is coated with a mixture of dye and chemicals. When heated above melting point, the dye reacts to the chemicals causing a shift to a coloured form (this is typically black, but can be blue or red). The print head in the machine is able to heat the correct areas of the paper, thus making it legible. Although you wouldn’t be able to notice just by looking at it, thermal paper contains three layers.

  1. The substrate layer – is the paper
  2. The base layer – acts as a binding element that is made from starches, gelatin and alkali salts. This layer allows the heat to move through the paper.
  3. The active layer – contains the chemicals that make the paper react to heat.

How To Measure Paper Rolls?

Paper rolls are measured by its width, outer diametre and inner diametre. For example, a thermal paper roll of 80mm x 80mm x 12mm means:

The width of the paper roll is 80mm, the outer diametre of the paper roll is 80mm and the inner core of the paper roll is 12mm.

The most important measurement for your paper roll is the roll width. Using a ruler, measure from side to side the face of the paper that your printer prints on. The second important measurement is the roll diametre. To measure the diametre of the roll, use your ruler to measure through the centre roll from one side to the other.

how to measure a paper roll


The End of a Paper Roll

If the paper roll begins to show a pink stripe on it or changes colour, it generally means that the tape is near the end of its roll.

end of paper roll


Cool To Know:
You can do a simple test to figure out if you have thermal paper or bond paper. Try to draw a line by pressing your finger nail on the paper. The paper roll is thermal is you were able to draw the line by pressing your finger nail on it. Otherwise, it is bond paper and you need a printer ribbon for this type of paper.