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KYOCERA Develops World's Fastest Thermal Printhead for Card Printers

Company will mass-produce high-resolution printhead using proprietary design technology starting March 1; Device allows print speed of 50mm per second

February 17, 2010

Kyocera Corporation (President: Tetsuo Kuba) today announced that it has successfully developed the new KLE Series thermal printhead for desktop card printers used to print onto rigid materials such as ID cards and credit cards. The new printhead is capable of 300-dpi, full-color, high-resolution printing at 50mm per second — the industry’s highest speed*1 for this type of printhead. The company will begin mass production March 1, 2010.

Enhancements to the KLE Series printhead structure using Kyocera’s design technology have increased the print speed beyond that of its predecessor — which was already the industry’s front-runner in print speed. The new printhead employs Kyocera’s proprietary double partial glaze (DPG) structure in the real edge head*2. The DPG structure uses the convex shape of the heat-storage glaze layer to increase thermal efficiency for printing, thus achieving a speed about 1.5 times that of the company’s conventional real-edge printhead. This series also achieves a high-resolution print quality by using a split structure for the heater.

Kyocera, which holds the top market share in the printhead industry, expands its lineup with this new product to meet customers’ wide range of needs and to realize the high-speed and high-resolution print quality required in the desktop card printer market.

Image: KLE Series Thermal Printhead
KLE Series Thermal Printhead

Product Overview


KLE Series Thermal Printhead


66×31×9mm (WxDxH)

Production locations

Front-end process in Kagoshima Hayato Factory (Japan)
Back-end process in Nagano Okaya Factory (Japan)

Mass production schedule

Full-scale mass production starts from March 1, 2010

Production target

3,000 units/month with target of 10,000 units/month after one year

Development Background

In recent years, the demand for ID and credit cards with high-resolution photos has grown along side with the need to ensure security. Compact, simple card printers capable of printing quickly on location are widely used, particularly in companies and retail locations that use ID cards with photos for employee and customer management. In recent years, the demand for such cards is growing not only in Japan, the U.S. and Europe, but also in China and India. Under these circumstances, Kyocera’s thermal printheads featuring high-speed and high-resolution advantages are indispensable components to achieve convenient, fast, and high-resolution card printers.


Real edge printheads, which are capable of printing without bending the media, are used to print onto cards made of rigid materials such as plastic. Kyocera has applied its proprietary double partial glaze (DPG) structure for the first time to the KLE Series to create a printhead capable of high-speed and high-resolution printing.
Image: Comparison between Conventional Printhead and Double Partial Glaze Structure Printhead
Comparison between Conventional Printhead and Double Partial Glaze Structure Printhead

1. Achieving speeds 1.5 times that of conventional printhead
This printhead achieves a speed roughly 1.5 times that of the company’s conventional printhead by using Kyocera’s proprietary double partial glaze structure — two partial glazes on one heater. Even with the high speed, print quality is maintained with stable printing that reduces ink ribbon wrinkles.

2. High resolution printing by optimizing temperature distribution
As with Kyocera’s conventional printheads, the heater used for printing employs a split structure to optimize temperature distribution for better physical contact of horizontal dots to achieve high-resolution printing.

3. Facilitated by design
The convex shape of the heating element that characterizes the double partial glaze improves the contact with the print media even in high-speed printing, thus broadening the tolerance for the printhead mounting angle in the printer design and facilitating the assembly and adjustment of the equipment.

Image: Comparison of Heaters
Comparison of Heaters

4. Long life and high reliability
This printhead uses technology to improve the anti-pulse characteristic of the resistor in order to minimize the fluctuation of the resistance value against the applied energy for high-speed printing; and thus has ensures reliability to maintain stable long-term print quality.

Kyocera Thermal Printheads

Kyocera’s thermal printheads use a thin-film technology to form a glass heat accumulation layer called a glaze layer on a ceramic substrate. Printing is performed by passing current through the heating element to generate and transfer heat to the thermal paper or ink ribbon. The heating element is made of thin layers to make sure the array of dots is accurate and thermal response (response from passing current to heat generation) is fast; making Kyocera’s thermal printheads capable of high-speed and high-resolution printing. The optimal printhead shape for various applications and materials can be formed by changing the thickness and shape of the glaze layer.

Image: Diverse Lineup of Kyocera Thermal Printheads
Diverse Lineup of Kyocera Thermal Printheads

Types of Thermal Printheads

Flat Type
General shape
Corner Type
Mainly used for high-speed barcode applications
Real Edge Type
Mainly used for card applications
Image: Flat Type   Image: Corner Type   Image: Real Edge Type

Thermal Printhead Applications

Thermal printheads are characterized by a simple structure, small size and light weight. They provide great flexibility for printer design, as they can be used for a variety of applications and enable printing onto a wide range of materials in addition to paper and cards.

Examples of equipment using thermal printheads include barcode printers which are heavily used in the food industry; POS printers which are required to be small, light, and energy-efficient; ticket printers for mobile devices; and card printers which print directly onto rigid media such as cards. The KLE Series thermal printhead is designed for card printers.

*1 The KLE Series is the industry’s fastest thermal printhead for desktop card printers (based on Kyocera’s research as of February 9, 2010).
*2 Real edge printheads place the heating element on the edge of the substrate to enable printing without bending the media. Real edge printheads are mainly used for rigid materials such as plastic cards.