Do you know the difference between inkjet, laser and thermal printers? How do they work and which one is best for you? This article explains the unique tech qualities of each printer type so you can decide which one suits your needs based on print quality, size and of course price.
Inkjet printers have become the most commonly owned printer because you can get great print quality without breaking the bank. You will find inkjet printers in all shapes and sizes. There are very large inkjet printers all the way to wireless and mobile compact printers that you can carry in a briefcase.
Inkjet printing works by precisely placing extremely tiny droplets of ink onto paper to form an image. Dpi (droplets per inch) is a common acronym that you will see in reference to inkjet printers. For example, when a printer has a 600 x 600 dpi this means that it the printer will put 600 dots horizontally and 600 dots laterally per inch. Printers with a higher dpi will produce better quality prints. Lowering your dpi will usually result in better print speeds but lower quality prints.
The word laser can make you think that this technology was taken out of a James Bond film. Adversely, this technology is simple, clever and efficient. The basic principle behind laser jet printing is static electricity.
How does that same buildup of energy that shocks you when you go to open a metal door handle apply to printing? Scientifically speaking, two atoms that are oppositely charged are attracted to each other. The drum inside of the printer is positively charged by a wire or roller with an electrical current running through it. As this drum is revolving, a laser is projected onto the drum to take away the positive charge in certain places. After this occurs the printer then puts a positively charged toner (black powder) on the drum. This positively charged powder will stick to the parts of the drum that are now negatively charged due to the help of the laser.
When the paper goes through the printer, it is given a negative charge by the same wire or roller that took away the charge on the drum. The paper then rolls under the drum attracting the toner from the drum onto the paper (due to its stronger negative charge).
Finally the paper passes through the printer’s fuser. The fuser melts the toner onto the paper and rolls the paper out into the output paper tray. This is the reason why the printer paper is hot when it comes out of a laser printer. This is how the basic concept of static electricity is used to print efficient and great quality prints.
Thermal printers do not use ink to print. A special paper, fittingly called thermal paper, needs to be used with thermal printers. Thermal paper is coated with certain chemicals that make the paper change color when heated. A roller will feed the thermal paper over the thermal print head. Where the print head heats the paper is where the image will show up.
Without the use of ink cartridges or ribbons, the process of thermal printing can be quite simple. The maintenance of a thermal printer is minimal due to the lack of these moving parts. Without these moving parts, thermal printers can be extremely small and portable.