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I have several HP Thermal Printers and I usually keep the paper in place even if I do not work with the machine(s) in a long time. Now I wondered if this could damage the pinter (head) in any way. Can someone answer my question? Any advice is appreciated. Thanks for your time!

Since most non-archival papers are rather acidic and the thermal paper contains chemicals, there is a possibility that over time it could corrode the rather small and delicate print head resistors.

I have seen several machines that sat unused for many years. After cleaning them up and installing new paper, they print just fine for a few lines and then a dot or two in the print head opens up. I have attributed this to corrosion of the resistors in the print head. I don't know if the paper had anything to do with it or not, but it probably did not help.

Are you sure it's the resistor that opens? I've had several printheads that get clogged with dirt, and I've had the flexiprint cable go open-circuit. I've had the printhead physically cracked. But I've never had a printhead heater resistor go open-circuit.
Have you actually checked the resistance of the heaters at the printhead end of the flexiprint (i.e. between the traces on the ceramic substrate)?

Yes, I even checked heads under a microscope and they are definitely bad. I have two '19C's, 2 97's, and three or four HP41 printers missing dots in their heads. I have not had any problems with the flex cables opening up.