Technically, general purpose laserjet and inkjet printers cannot print barcodes by default. Usually, they require a add-on component or module. An example is Capella Technologies which provides barcode printing functionality to standard HP laserjet printers through an add-on flash card. Such barcode printers are usually limited in the number of symbologies that can be used.
Thermal Barcode printers, on the other hand supports multiple symbologies right out of the box. There are two ways barcode printers print barcode, the first method is Thermal Transfer and the second method is Direct Thermal. Direct Thermal prints the barcode directly on the label while Thermal Transfer make use of a ribbon and a printhead. The ribbon is heated and the image is etched on by the printhead on a pre-defined area.
Thermal transfer allows you to print barcodes on a wider variety of materials than direct thermal. As such, the type of material you are going to print barcodes on is a crucial factor in determining which barcode printer to purchase.
Barcode Printing technology has evolved tremendously over the last few years. Lately, barcode manufacturers have implemented several security features to ensure there is no counterfeit coding. The latest models of barcode printers are capable of printing labels with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Devices) tags in them. Such security features are mandatory in some highly sensitive industries and help to provide a guarantee of authentication.