What is an inkjet printer?
The inkjet printer is another type of desktop computer peripheral used to turn out digital texts and images on paper. This type of printer embodies the earliest form of digital printing that has remained relevant today. For decades, the inkjet was preferred by photographers and commercial printers to serve intricate output requirements. That is in line with their true-to-nature prints and the lengthy lifespan of printed copies.
Printer manufacturers were also able to advance this technology and created varying models that cater to different printing requirements. Small office, home office and large format printers in time were introduced to the market. Inkjet printers typically have low upfront costs. However, owners discovered that the cost per page significantly influenced its total cost of ownership. Despite this downside, Inkjets continued to rise in popularity, improved its performance while significantly drops its price into a much affordable one.
There are only two types of Inkjet technology used today – Thermal and Piezo-electric.
**Thermal Technology** – Introduced way back in 1976, this printing technology has survived the test of time and remains relevant even to this day. The thermal system uses a metal resistor that is heated and thereafter forces ink bubbles into 300 or 600 micro jet nozzles to print. Together with the Drop on Demand (DOD) technology, ink is delivered where it is required. This guarantees stunning prints.
**Piezoelectric DOD** – Another Drop on Demand inkjet printer technology uses the piezoelectric material. When current is applied to the piezoelectric material, it changes shape and generates pressure that forces ink into the micro nozzles. Unlike thermal technology that employs water-based ink, piezoelectric uses solvent-based inks. In the printing of banners and outdoor signage, Piezoelectric technology is preferred since prints last indefinitely, are waterproof and never fades.
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**MICR** – Magnetic Ink Character Recognition or MICR is a technology widely used in the banking industry. MICR printers and inks are utilized in the turn out of negotiable documents – usually checks, screened and sorted by bank processing machines.
The MICR ink is formulated with iron oxide that renders printouts magnetic. The magnetic character of the prints helps in the accurate and easy readout of checks and other documents. The MICR passes through a read head and creates a unique character waveform that is identified by the system.
**3D printing** – Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is a new technology that creates three-dimensional solid images. It uses digital technology and a special kind of ink intended for 3D inkjet printers. However, 3D inkjet cartridges are in its basic form, since it still cannot be implanted with microchips and electronics.
**Thermal foam inkjet microburst technology** – This latest technology works like the regular thermal inkjet printer. The only difference is that it uses thermal foam ink or gel-like consumable which is less toxic, and does not easily get eroded by dust particles. It uses a thermal foam nozzle which delivers ink in a faster and more accurate manner. Printers using this technology also have front and rear thermal heaters and an external fan for the easy cooling of ink. Commonly used with six-color inkjet (C M Y K Lc Lm) printers, it promises outputs that maintain vividness and have excellent light resistance qualities.
Decades after the invention of the photocopier and its rise in various industries, the first inkjet printer was launched by Hewlett-Packard or HP in 1976. However, it was not until 1988 that it became available for home and small office consumers. Although a promising business technology, the price tag of inkjet printers hindered its popularity. A desk inkjet printer at that time costs $1000 dollars at an average. In 1994, Epson Stylus Color was the first ever color deskjet printer. It boasted of a 720 dpi resolution. Three years later, the same manufacturer launched the Epson Stylus 600 and Epson Stylus 800 deskjet printers that carry a much higher resolution of 1440 dpi. That same year, Epson proved to be one of the market leaders with the release of six-color photo quality printers. In 1998, built-in USB connectivity was also made available along with FireWire connectivity.
By 2004, inkjet printers were already capable of printing CD labels and borderless photos. Around this time, scanning and copying functions were also added, making portable and stand-alone printers to be efficient for SOHOs. HP Officejet Pro X551dw Printeris this year’s best all-in-one wireless printer. Among its top features is a touchscreen display, low running cost, USB key printing capability, Ethernet and Wifi Connectivity.
Inkjet Printer Mechanism:
The inkjet printer is world’s apart with the laser printer when it comes to mechanism. Not only that the inkjet runs on a wide array of technologies, but under its hood is a more simple set of components. The only aspect that is common to these printing equipment is that both turn out prints under a non-impact process.
The ink is pumped and squirted through microscopic nozzles to substrate material and on paper. As the paper passes in vertical position, the printhead scans the paper and moves back and forth horizontally; forming strips. The image is printed on paper with this action. However, the printhead prints both in horizontal and vertical strips completing the image as the paper passes through. In DOD, the ink is emitted through the nozzles in small droplets with a speed of a few thousand times in a matter of seconds. So how does the printer know how much ink to propel? Easy, the printer driver is responsible for controlling the volume of ink emission on paper. It tells how much and when the droplets are to be released.
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Photographers and companies engaged in the printing business prefer inkjets over laser printers despite the cost per page disadvantage. That’s because inks reproduce better images with colors close to real life tones.
Inkjet printers are capable of printing in monochrome and color: CMYK as the primary colors. Nowadays, six-color and even twelve-color Inkjets are available in the market that turn out photographic-quality prints. Apparently with a higher resolution, better image quality is reproduced. In the case of Inkjets, the technology and type of ink used affects overall print quality. Piezo-electric technology, for instance creates finer prints than its counterpart, but is prone to fade when exposed to ultraviolet rays. The best output is achieved using glossy papers and differ with other media.
Inkjet printers use ink cartridges. Ink cartridges usually come in two types – starter cartridges and single or combined cartridges. An inkjet may have individual cartridges for each color (CMYK, RGB) or have them combined in one cartridge with divided reservoirs. These may be in the starter or high yield capacities. The starter cartridge comes with the inkjet printer purchase. This allows the user to print as soon as the starter cartridge is loaded into the printer. However, the starter cartridge contains lesser ink compared to its high capacity counterpart.
There are also two types of inks – dye-based and pigment-based. Dye based is the most common ink use in inkjets and offer more color palettes. On the other hand, pigment-based ink is not water-based, making it more solid and resistant to fading.
Photography – Professionals and enthusiasts alike generally prefer to print out their captures on inkjet printers since it brings out true-to-form results. With options such as 4 to 12 color inks, images are reproduced in brighter and richer colors. Mainstream inkjets now run on advanced printing technologies that operate with accurate ink release and finer resolution.
Graphic design – Web artists use tools and software to create digital art. With the help of inkjets, these graphic designs come to life that may even be reproduced in 3D printing format. Output for visual tools and DIY crafts also come out with great results.
Wide-format printing – Digital printing has high regard for inkjet technology. This type of printer can turn out high resolution printouts. Inkjet is popular in the production of banners, ads and other marketing collateral. Advertising materials up to 50 feet long can be turned out with affecting its resolution.
Commercial printing –Inkjet printers are known to deliver better results compared to laser printers when it comes to photos and graphics. No wonder inkjets are widely used in commercial printing. Inkjets are popularly used in commercial application, which includes glossy brochures, magazines to fine printed books and other types of publications.