Stability to return to global thermal market

Stability to return to global thermal market

Stability to return to $42.6 billion global thermal market, Smithers latest market data show.

New demand for thermal print equipment and consumables will increase sales across the next five years according to a new market study – The Future of Thermal Printing to 2029 – from Smithers.

Combined sales of direct thermal (DT), thermal transfer (TT), and dye diffusion thermal transfer (D2T2) print technologies is projected to reach $42.6 billion worldwide this year at end-user pricing. Smithers latest data show that consumables (papers, labels, tickets & tags, ribbons photo media, etc) account for the majority of this, 72.6% of the market, with hardware representing the remainder.

An equilibrium is returning to the market, after the disruption of Covid-19 struck several core markets, including transportation, retail, and entertainment. Purchases of thermal print equipment were impacted by postponement of large hardware projects caused by tightening of corporate budgets over this period. Widespread stockpiling of thermal print consumables led to a subsequent release of inventory which depressed revenues in 2023. 

These factors are now levelling out, and Smithers forecasts a steady increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.1% for the next five years. This will push global market value to $49.6 billion in 2029, at constant prices. With sales of printers increasing relative to supplies, supported by increased use of mobile and barcode thermal print equipment.

Smithers identifies a series of factors which will shape evolution of the thermal print marketplace across these five years. 

While still the largest end-use segment, sales into retail environments will be constrained, and below their historic average. Demand for printed receipts is expected to continue to decline as more transactions are handled electronically. Additionally, sales from conventional retail will continue to be diverted into e-commerce although here the switch is compensated for by the need for more thermally printed delivery labels. There are also gains be made in thermal receipts for ‘buy online pickup in store’ purchases, and combined POS receipts and labels in some sectors, notably fast-food restaurants. 

Electronic ticketing poses a real threat to thermal printing in the ticket and travel sector; significant substitution has already taken place. For security documents, while there is a noticeable shift toward providing credentials electronically, the practical need for a physical back-up copy will limit any impact on sales volumes. 

Sales growth to 2029 will be fastest in manufacturing and healthcare. Specialty thermal transfer overprint (TTO) devices used to print date and batch codes will see greater use as enhanced traceability requirements are imposed by law, principally on pharmaceutical shipments. And in manufacturing the wider deployment of smart, automated inventory systems is creating a demand for manufacturers who can integrate conventional barcodes and 2D data matrix codes with RFID tags and readers. 

Global thermal printer and supplies by end-user market, 2024 ($ million, end-user prices)

Source: Smithers

DT will make further gains in healthcare in certain regions due to regulatory changes. The US Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA) has strict protocols on the potential fraudulent use of the reverse imprinted image on discarded ribbons, which are completely avoided when employing  newer formulation label stocks.

Across all end-uses, thermal print OEMs are under pressure to deliver systems that have a lower environmental impact – two noticeable trends for 2024-2029 will be the wider use of linerless label formats and an accelerated changeover to phenol-free formulations for direct thermal systems. 

Available to purchase now, The Future of Thermal Printing to 2029 from Smithers analyzes both commercial and technology trends to quantify this evolving market space in an exclusive, comprehensive dataset of over 130 tables and figures. This segments historic, current, and future demand by:
  • Thermal print system – Direct thermal (DT); Thermal transfer (TT); Dye diffusion thermal transfer (D2T2)
  • Thermal print consumables – DT POS receipts; DT tickets & tags; DT labels; DT specialty; TT ribbons; TT labels & tags; TT polymer tubing & tags; D2T2 ribbons & media
  • Printer format – POS & kiosk; Ticket & tag; Barcode; Mobile; Specialty; Photo & ID card
  • End-use application – Retail; Manufacturing; Transportation; Healthcare; Finance; Entertainment & hospitality; Government
  • Geographic region – North America; Latin America; Western Europe; Eastern Europe; Asia-Pacific; Middle East & Africa.

Find out more

Download The Future of Thermal Printing to 2029 brochure

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