If you’re wondering what type of printer might be a good choice for your home or office, then it’s a good idea to find out what types of printers are available. Whether you have prior knowledge of printing or not, it’s still worth looking at what other options might be out there, as well as some of the most popular options from the past.
And for those who don’t know anything about printing in general, then it can be extremely confusing to know the different between the types of printers. Not only this, but it’s not easy to tell what type of printer is going to be the best choice for you. Each printer has different pros and cons which make it more suitable for one task, and perhaps less suitable for another task.
Generally, printers can be divided up into different categories depending on their mechanisms. Because of the way they’re designed, they may fit into two different categories e.g. an inkjet, photo printer is at it’s core an inkjet printer, but can also be defined by the fact it’s made specifically for photographs. So, let’s take a look at some of the ways that you can categorize printers.
Types of Printers and Their Advantages
Inkjet Printer – Mainly Used for Home, Personal
When we’re talking about printers today, generally we’re comparing two different types – inkjet and laser. They’re both effective in their own way. Inkjet printers are likely to be a better choice for people using them at home, whilst laser printers are better for business and office use.
The names of each type of printing are pretty self explanatory. Inkjet printing is just spraying (or jetting) tiny drops of ink onto a sheet of paper to give an image. They generally use tons of tiny little jets to shoot ink onto the paper, or whatever material they’re printing on to. Different types of inkjet printers generally work in different ways – for example most Canon use their BubbleJet technology to heat the ink until it explodes, whereas other companies use pressure to force the ink onto the paper.
The reason that inkjet printers became so popular is because they have the ability to do things in a much finer detail. Before, when companies were using dot matrix printers, you would probably get around 60 dots per inch. With inkjet printers, most of them print at 10x this, or often even more than that. So, their accuracy is the key to why they’ve become so popular.
Overall, inkjet printers are likely to be the best choice for the majority of people. If you want something to use at home, an inkjet is the perfect choice.
Cheaper initial purchase costs make them more suitable for families and home use.
Inkjet printers tend to be a lot better at printing on glossy paper and other paper types, which gives them a massive advantage when it comes to other types of printing, like photograph printing.
Inkjet printers are pretty much good to go within a few seconds of turning them on (again, making them great for home use).
Ink can cost a lot in the long run (we all know how expensive printer ink can be!).
AIf you leave a sheet of laser printed paper and an inkjet printed sheet of paper over time, the laser print will generally last long, as it’s less susceptible to damage than an inkjet print.
Laser Printer – Mainly Used for Office
Laser printers work in a different way to inkjet printers, and they’re a better choice for mass scale printing. They have a similar method of working as photocopiers, which makes them a good choice for all-in-one printers.
Essentially, the way a laser printer works is almost the same as a photocopier. When you place a page face down ins a photocopier, a bright light flashes, and you’ve got a duplicate right? Well, the light reflects off the printer drum, and static electricity is used to help ink particles stick to the drum itself, which is then printed onto the paper. This is the same as with a laser printer, except a laser printer uses a laser to draw the image out based on whatever’s on your computer.
Generally, laser printers are considered to be a better option for those in offices or even small businesses. Due to the printing costs, they can often prove to be a more cost efficient version of inkjet printers.
Laser printers are the faster and more efficient option, especially for documents and files. If you need to print a lot in a short amount of time, laser printers are better.
Over time, laser printers prove to be the cheaper option, as you don’t have the expensive ink costs as associated with inkjet printers.
For text alone, laser printers will give you a better result and more accurate lettering than an inkjet.
The initial outlay on a laser printer is much greater than that of an inkjet.
They’re not good with other sizes of paper, or photographs.. or anything except basic printing, really. This is why they’re so commonly used in offices for document printing, but they’re not ideal for home printing.
LED Printer – Similar to Laser Printers
Generally, LED printers work in a very similar way to one another. That’s why when you see them for sale, they’re generally grouped into the same bracket as one another. Of course the glaring difference between the two is the fact that laser printers use a laser, whilst LED printers emit a ray of light that burns an image in a different way. Aside from this different in tools, the method using by both types of printer is very similar.
The main question that people ask about LED printers is whether they’re as good as laser printers. The correct answer is that generally, they’re better for running costs, but laser printers still give a better quality image.
Dye Sublimation Printer – Mainly Used for Alternative Materials
Ever wondered how they print ID cards, or t shirts? Well for this, they’ll use a Dye Sublimation Printer. This is essentially a computer printer, often larger than a regular printer to accustom needs, that transfers dye onto various different materials (plastic, cotton etc) through a heat and dye method – essentially it’s a heat press which imprints the dye onto whatever material necessary. This kind of method is generally used for things like ID cards because it makes the image less vulnerable to scratches and generally more long lasting.
Thermal Printers – Mainly Used for Receipts
Thermal printers are still commonly used nowadays, but you’re not going to come across them much if you’re looking for something for your home. They’re generally used for receipts, like ATM receipts. Why? Well, because they’re generally faster and they use much less power than a regular printer. So for convenience they’re a much better option. They work by using a special thermo sensitive paper, and essentially print onto the paper through a heat source which changes the image on the paper by burning the imprint onto the paper.
How do we define a printer? (Characteristics)
When looking at printers, people often want to know which one is best, or how to decide on which printer that they should get. There are various different ways that you’re going to want to decide on which is the right printer for you, or how to tell which one may be better than the other. So, here’s some of the specifications and characteristics (whatever you want to call it!) that can help you to tell the difference between different printer types.
- Color vs Monochrome – Of course, one of the first things you’ll need to know about a printer is whether you have the ability to print in color. If you don’t need a color printer, then it can be worth looking at a monochrome printer instead.
- Printing speed – Although nowadays most home printers have a better printing speed, it doesn’t usually match up to office printers which usually have a fast speed out of necessity. Printing speed is measured in pages per minute, so if you see the abbreviation PPM flying around, you know what it means!
- Resolution (dpi) – Essentially, the resolution is how many dots that can be imprinted per inch of page. This doesn’t matter too much for regular printing, but you’ll notice there’s a big difference with photographs and other images. So, if you see something like 300dpi, this stands for the amount of dots per inch, which higher numbers are necessary for in details imagery).
- Type quality – Another way that you might see printer quality measure is by the quality of type, meaning how well the letters are represents on a page. Top printers will have letter quality printing, but lower range printers might not have this.
- Warm Up – Printers usually vary drastically in the amount of time that they take to warm up and actually be ready for printing. It’s usual for any printer to take some time to warm up, but newer printers generally take a lot less time than older printers, which may have taken a looong time to warm up in the past.
- Wireless – The vast majority of newer printers that are being released will be made for wireless printing with Airprint or with any other kind of wireless printing.
2D Printers we don’t really use anymore
Daisy Wheel Printers
Very similar to the premise of a typewriter, a Daisy Wheel was all the rage 50 years ago. Nowadays with technological advancements they’re obsolete, but they’re still interesting to understand how they work. Generally, the Daisy Wheel spins to accommodate each different letter that’s chosen to be imprinted onto the paper. Daisy Wheels died in the 70s when newer printers gave us much better capabilities.
As you might have guessed, line printers work by printing a whole line, and then moving onto the next line. Line printers aren’t used any more, being replaced gradually by laser printers – this is because line printers didn’t have the capability to print anything other than letters, and they were also particularly noisy in comparison to printers of today.
Dot Matrix Printers
After Daisy Wheel printers and line printers came Dot Matrix printers, which were by far the most popular form of printing before Inkjet and laser printers took over. Essentially, Dot Matrix printers are somewhere between Daisy Wheels and inkjets – they use a typewriter style in the way that they imprint on paper, but they work in the way that each letter is effectively dotted on by using a dot matrix.
3D Printers are a whole new level in comparison to the printers that I’ve just talked about, and whilst they’re not the same thing, it’s only fair to discuss 3d Printers as well. 3D printing is generally described at creating a material object through computing control, allowing us to create physical form via a layered system.
Essentially, you can create your 3D printing model from a computer alone – this is often done by using general engineering design software, like CAD. This essentially allows you to create the model in hundreds, or sometimes thousands of different levels. Doing this can help to create a complete 3d printed model.
Overall, this is just a short list of some of the different types of printer that you’ll find available nowadays, both for home use and for business use too. They all work different, though essentially they have the same premise. 3D printers add a new element to things too, which makes things a little more interesting as well. But overall, there are clearly a variety of different printers available and they all have their benefits and drawbacks.