THE PRINTER EVOLUTION
Welcome to a guide and list of the different types of computer printers. Once upon a time in the cyber stone age, computers are boring boxes that only do data crunching. They are good for mad scientists to do research, maybe some industrial uses, but otherwise offered no value for home and office users.
It was not until the invention of word processing and printers that things start to change. Printers became widely adopted and evolved over time – From the early “text only” printers, to color printers, to photo printers, to 3D printers. Just how many types of printers are there? What are their advantages and disadvantages? Read on to find out!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
| Section A
| Section B
Types of Printers
| Section C
Before we dive into the various types of printers, let us start with some of the boring basic stuff.
WHAT IS A PRINTER?
For those who do not already know… A printer is an external device that receives electronic data from a computer and traditionally prints it out onto a piece of paper. Although ever since the invention of 3D printers, we can also print out small objects.
COMMON PRINTER TECHNOLOGIES
Just how do printers work? Things have actually changed a lot over time, and we have quite a few different printing technologies today. For those of you who are interested, here is a quick summary:
- Impact – One of the earliest technologies. Works by pressing ink from a ribbon onto a piece of paper.
- Inkjet – Simply sprays ink onto a piece of paper.
- Dye Sublimation – Melts a color dye, then transfers it onto a piece of paper.
- Photoconductor – Watch this video for a full explanation if you are interested. It is kind of difficult to fully explain with words, as it involves some mad scientist stuff. But in a nutshell:
- The main players in a photoconductor design are a drum and toner (ink).
- As a print job starts, the drum will start to spin, and become coated with electrical charges.
- A laser then hits the drum at very specific spots, according to what you want to print. This creates negatively charged spaces on the drum.
- The toner is then attracted to the drum’s negative space, creating a mirror image of what you want to print.
- Lastly, mad science magic happens as a static charged piece of paper is rolled over the drum – The toner is “transferred” on the paper, thus printing what you want.
- Thermal – Works like a combination of impact and dye sublimation. But instead of heating up color dye, it heats up a ribbon and uses a print head to “transfer” it onto paper.
- Electro Erosion – In layman terms, burning an image onto material using laser.
TYPES OF PRINTERS
Now that you are armed with the basic knowledge, here is a list of the types of printers.
1) MECHANICAL PRINTERS
|Description||Mechanical printers are the first generation that is modeled after the typewriter. There is usually an ink ribbon, and it is pressed against paper using a “template” such as the Daisy Wheel above.|
|Print Speed||Depends. Usually about a dozen characters per second.|
|Print Quality||Whatever the print “template” looks like.|
|Advantages||Cool. Good for museum display.|
|Disadvantages||Obsolete technology. No longer in use, no longer manufactured.|
2) DOT MATRIX PRINTERS
|Description||Another of the good old grandfather technologies. It uses an ink ribbon and a print head will “tattoo” a ton of dots (thus dot matrix) onto the piece of paper to create whatever text or image you want.|
|Print Speed||Varies. Between 30 to 1500 characters per second.|
|Print Quality||Dots… Just a ton of dots.|
3) INKJET PRINTERS
|Description||This is the common Joe that you see everywhere these days. Works by spraying ink onto paper.|
|Print Speed||Depends on the printer and what is being printed. But usually about 20 pages per minute.|
|Print Quality||A pretty good all-rounder for printing text and images.|
|Advantages||Very affordable, pretty good print speed and quality.|
|Disadvantages||Ink mileage not that great, replacements are not as cheap. Instead of buying a replacement ink cartridge, some people would rather use 3rd party refills packs.|
4) LASER PRINTERS
|Description||This is another common Joe that you see everywhere these days. Uses the photoconductor technology.|
|Print Speed||Varies, but usually a lot faster than inkjets. Can usually print about 100 to 200 pages per minute.|
|Print Quality||Unlike inkjets that sprays ink, the laser printer is extremely precise – They are better at printing text, but not as good when it comes to colors and photos.|
|Advantages||Affordable, prints fast, good ink mileage.|
|Disadvantages||Not as good when it comes to printing photos… Glossy paper will probably melt inside laser printers. Also, laser printers are usually a little bulkier than inkjets.|
5) LARGE FORMAT PRINTERS
|Description||The big brother of inkjets that is used to print posters and canvases. Depending on the manufacturer, large format printers are usually dye sublimation, but can also be inkjet.|
|Print Speed||Varies depending on the size that you are printing. But it offers about the same speed as inkjet printers.|
|Print Quality||Insanely good for photos, art, and images.|
|Advantages||Excellent print quality, able to print large formats.|
|Disadvantages||Crazy expensive, a large gadget that takes up a lot of space. Not your normal household item.|
6) THERMAL PRINTERS
|Description||Commonly found in shops. Used as label or receipt printers.|
|Print Speed||Varies again, but these can usually spit out a receipt within just a couple of seconds.|
|Print Quality||Good enough for text, but will usually fade over time.|
|Disadvantages||Not much uses apart from printing receipts. Not meant for permanent prints.|
7) ALL-IN-ONE PRINTER (AIO)
|Description||This is a printer, fax machine, scanner, and network printer all-in-one. Also known as a multifunctional printer (MFP).|
|Print Speed||Depending on which design it picks up – But usually an inkjet or photoconductor.|
|Print Quality||As the print technology that it adopts.|
|Advantages||A convenient device that does many things.|
|Disadvantages||Usually a tad bit more expensive than the rest, and very bulky.|
Finally, this section describes the “alternate” types of printers that I personally feel don’t quite fit with the rest above.
8) 3D PRINTER
This is the “upgraded” printer that does not print on paper. It melts a string of plastic filament, and prints out objects instead. Yep, as long as you have the 3D model, you can pretty much “manufacture” any small object with a 3D printer.
9) CNC ENGRAVING MACHINE
A “powerful printer” uses a beam of laser to draw stuff. It obviously does not print on paper but is used to engrave images on wood and metal instead.
10) VIRTUAL PRINTER
Finally, this is kind of like an easter egg… Virtual printers don’t exist physically but are used to convert documents from one format to another instead. For example, there is an option to “print to file” in Microsoft Word. From there, you can choose to convert Word Documents to PDF, so that other people will not be able to easily edit that file.
That’s all for this guide, and here is a small section on some extras and links that may be useful to you.
LINKS & REFERENCES
Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide. I hope that this has helped you to better understand the different types of printers, and if you have anything to share with this guide, please feel free to comment below. Good luck and happy computing. May the cyber force be with you.