Printers are one of the most common computer peripheral devices used to produce hard copies and print documents. These documents can be of any type, such as text file, image, or a combination of both.
There are various kinds of printers available in the market to print specific data types. Bar code printers, for example, are specifically designed to generate barcode labels (or tags) that can be attached to other objects. Similarly, laser printers are built for noiseless printing and 3D printers for three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file.
Most people think that the printing industry is dying slowly. But that’s not true; the modern printing industry is alive and thriving. According to the Mordor Intelligence report, the global printer market is expected to reach $54.8 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 4.5% from 2021 to 2026.
The demand for multifunctional printers has grown significantly over the past few years as consumers have become more energy neutral. Manufacturers are adopting new technologies for the ever-growing printing requirements.
Below, we have listed all different types of printers based on obsolete, modern, and special-purpose printing technologies. This will help you discover what type of printer is right for your home office or business.
HP 9862A Calculator Plotter
Example: HP DesignJet T210
A plotter prints vector graphics by drawing lines on paper using a pen. Some plotters use markers to draw multiple, continuous lines onto paper, while some use knives to cut a material like leather or vinyl. The latter is called cutting plotters.
These devices have been phased out by computer-controlled printing machines. However, cutting plotters are still used in many industries.
- Prints on large sheets of paper with high resolution
- Draws a single pattern more than one thousand times with no degradation
- Works with various materials, including cardboard, plywood, plastic, and aluminum
- Expensive and larger than a conventional printer
8. Impact Printers
The impact printer physically presses an inked ribbon against the page. Its plastic or metal head strikes the ink ribbon, whereby the ribbon is pressed against the page, and the specific character impression is printed on the paper. Although this mechanism is quite old, impact printers are still widely used in workplaces and industries.
Many different types of impact printers have been developed to date. The most common ones are:
8.1 Line Printers
IBM 1403 line printer
Example: Printronix P7-1500N line matrix printer
As the name suggests, Line printers print one line of text at a time (the full width of the page). They use a continuous feed of paper instead of individual cut sheets. And they can print up to 2,500 lines per minute.
- High-speed printing
- More durable
- Low operating costs
- Consumables are less harmful to the environment
- Low print quality and cannot print graphics
- Very noisy, requires sound-absorbing cases
Although the basic technology used in these printers dates back to the early 1940s, they are still suited for high-speed, business-oriented printing. They are mainly used in shop floors and industrial environments, where dust, humidity, extreme temperatures could easily damage modern printing machines.
8.2 Dot Matrix Printers
Example: Tvs MSP 250
In a dot matrix printer, the pins are arranged in one or multiple vertical columns. The print head (which contains several pins) moves up and down or in a back and forth motion and prints by striking an ink-soaked cloth ribbon against the page. This is just like a typewriter, but it can also print arbitrary patterns and not just particular characters.
A character printed by a dot matrix printer is actually an accumulation of multiple dots on a very small region of the paper. The printer can be used for text, multiple fonts, and basic graphical printing. The outputs, however, have a “dotted” appearance.
- Low printing cost
- Prints on multipart forms or carbon copies
- Useful for data logging
- Slow speed
- Limited print quality
They can be used to print multiple copies at the same time with the help of carbon copying. Thus, they are widely installed in offices and shops where multipart forms are required.
8.3 Daisy Wheel Printers
The daisy wheel and print head on a Diablo D-25 printer
Example: Commodore DPS 1101
A daisy wheel printer contains a disk and attached extension on which molded metal characters are mounted. When printing, the printer rotates the disk to each character and strikes it into an ink ribbon to create characters on paper.
- Can use heavy paper grades and fan-fold paper
- Can create carbon copies
- Low costs and maintenance
- Slow speed
- Low print quality
Invented in 1969 by Dr. Andrew Gabor at Diablo Data Systems, these printers became popular in the 1970s — they were widely used in electronic typewriters, word processors, and computers. However, the technology is now obsolete and found only in some electronic typewriters.
7. Minilab Printers
Example: Epson SureLab D1070DE
Minilabs are small photographic-developing and printing systems that are used in several retail stores to provide quick photo finishing services. A minilab machine is made of two systems: a film processor and a printer (paper processor). These two systems are often integrated into a single machine.
Some of the major players in the minilab industry are Noritsu America Corporation, Kodak Moments, Mitsubishi Electric, Agfa, HiTi Digital, and DNP Imagingcomm America Corporation.
- Perfect for photo processing
- High-capacity ink packs
- Prints on double- or single-sided sheet media
- Provides better exposed, color-corrected prints in less than 30 minutes
- Quite pricey
- Larger and bulkier and than typical printers
The Agfa and Kodak minilab machines use C41b chemistry to process films and RA-4 chemistry to process the paper. Depending on the device capabilities and operator’s expertise, films can be ready for collection within 20 minutes.
6. Thermal Printers
F2C portable thermal printer
Example: Polono Label Printers
A thermal printer is made of three components:
- Thermal head: Generates heat to produce an image on the page
- Platen: A roller that moves the page
- Spring: Holds the printhead and paper together by applying small pressure
The printer passes paper with a thermochromic coating over a print head. This print head contains several electrically heated elements, typically arranged as a line of small, closely spaced dots. The coating on the paper turns black in the region where it is heated, generating an image.
These printers can have a resolution of up to 1,200 DPI. Although most of them print black and white (monochrome) text, some produce two-color images.
Due to decent print quality, speed, and portability, thermal printers are widely used in the banking, retail, grocery, healthcare, and airline industries. Voucher printers in slot machines, information kiosks, and point of sale systems are some of the commercial applications of these printers.
- More quiet and faster than dot matrix printers
- Easier to use as there is less use of software involved
- Requires less maintenance
- Comes in various models and sizes
- Prints fewer colors
- The high heat limits wax and resin choices
They are also used to generate sub-seafloor seismic imagery and print real-time records of side-scan sonar. In the data processing field, they are used for quickly creating hard copies of continuous hydrographic or seismic records.
5. Dye-sublimation Printers
Example: Texart XT-640 High-Volume Dye-Sublimation Printer
Dye-sublimation printers utilize heat to transfer dye onto materials like card, paper, fabric, or plastic. They use the CMYO (cyan, magenta, yellow, overcoating) system to deposit the ink on the surface one color at a time. The ink is deposited via a heat press, which ultimately changes from solid to gas (hence the name “sublimation”) and enters the material.
The process is carried out at lower temperatures and higher pressures. Small heating elements on the print head change temperatures quickly to lay different amounts of dye. Polyester and polyester resin-coated substances are the perfect materials for this printing technique.
- Allows printing on rigid surfaces
- Print thousands of colors using four-color ink (CMYK)
- Best for creating ID cards and photographic prints
- Short learning curve
- The item may lose color over the months
- Specific type of ink is required
Professional and consumer dye-sublimation printers are developed for creating photographic prints, ID cards, license plates, etc. And since these printers are available in various sizes and styles, consumers can print on various products like mousepads, coffee mugs, handbags, smartphone cases, dresses, pillows, and more.
4. Solid Ink Printers
Example: HP Laserjet M209DW
As the name suggests, these printers use solid ink instead of fluid ink or toner powder. The printer melts the ink (which is usually a waxy resin-based polymer) to print images on paper or any substrate.
This is how the process goes: small pucks or spheres of solid ink are stored in a hopper. From there, they are transferred to the printhead and melted as per the requirement.
- Provides precise prints with bright colors
- Can print on many different types of media
- Less waste generated compared to inkjet or laser printers
- Suitable for intermittent use with long periods of downtime
- The printer need to pause and reheat in between prints
- Ink may clog printhead nozzles
This type of printer can create large graphic images with bright and vivid colors at reasonable costs. It is suitable for users who always have to print in color and require high-quality images. And since the solid ink doesn’t dry out over time, you don’t have to order new cartridges when you need to print something after a long time.
3. 3D Printers
Prusa I3 MK3S
Example: Tronxy X5SA Pro
3D printers are based on a technique called additive manufacturing. They create a physical three-dimensional object from a CAD (computer-aided design) or digital model. It involves adding materials (such as powder grains or composites or bio-materials) layer by layer at the millimeter scale.
Unlike injection molding and CNC machining that uses various cutting tools to make objects, 3D printers require no cutting tools. They construct objects directly onto the built platform.
- Enables fast design and production
- Gives you the flexibility to create anything that fits within its build volume
- Minimize waste
- Not yet versatile enough to work with most materials
- Requires post processing
Depending on the type of printer, material used, and size of the object, a print takes several hours to complete. The finished object often requires post-processing (like sanding, paint, or other conventional finishing touches) to achieve the desired surface finish.
3D printing processes can be categorized into 7 groups:
- Vat photopolymerization
- Material Extrusion
- Sheet Lamination
- Directed Energy Deposition
- Material Jetting
- Binder Jetting
- Powder Bed Fusion
Modern 3D printers are advanced enough to create complex structures and geometries that would be otherwise impossible to build manually. They can be used to build a range of objects, from simple prototypes to intricate final products, such as medical instruments, aircraft parts, eco-friendly buildings, and even artificial organs using layers of human cells.
2. Liquid Inkjet Printers
HP Smart Tank 530
Example: Canon PIXMA G3260
The inkjet printer creates an image by propelling droplets of ink onto paper or plastic substrates. Its printhead moves back and forth as the paper feeds through rollers. The complete image is made of thousands of minuscule dots, like the pixels on a television screen.
These dots are extremely small (between 50 and 70 microns in diameter) and positioned very precisely with resolutions up to 1200 x 1440 DPI. Also, these dots can have multiple colors combined together to produce high-quality pictures.
- Quieter than impact printers
- Practically no warm uptime
- Really good at producing natural shades and colors
- Easy to set up and use
- Liquid ink can dry out when stored for a longer period of time
- Expensive ink refills
Liquid inkjet printers perform best on nonporous paper and slightly heavy bond paper with a hard surface that effectively prevents colors from bleeding. They are available in many different varieties and sizes, ranging from small cost-efficient consumer models to expensive professional machines. While most home inkjet printers are lightweight and have low per-page costs, commercial machines are larger and print on a broader range of materials.
1. Laser Printers
Example: HP OfficeJet 5255
Laser printers have become a common consumer product, often used along with personal computers. Their working principle involves electrophotographic, which is the same technique used in photocopy machines.
To create a high-quality image, the laser printer continuously passes a laser beam back and forth over a photoreceptor drum. This drum is nothing but a negatively charged cylinder. It collects positively charged powdered ink (toner) and transmits the image to paper. The paper is then slightly heated to permanently fuse the image onto it.
The standard resolution in most laser printers is 600 DPI, whereas the high-end production machine can have a resolution of 2,400 DPI. Plus, they can print at a much faster rate than inkjet printers. A high-end model can print about 12,000 monochrome pages per hour or 6,000 colored pages per hour.
However, they don’t print color photos as well as inkjet printers do. That’s why most photographers and designers prefer inkjet printers for gallery-quality photos.
- Fast printing speed
- Produces high-quality monochrome prints
- Mechanical components are reliable and durable
- High initial investment cost
- Not suitable for high quality graphics
Laser printers are well suited for office use due to their capability to quickly print large amounts of documents. Overall, they are excellent for text, documents, and printing medium-quality color photos
1.1 LED Printers
Example: Xerox VersaLink C7000DN
LED (light-emitting diode) printers are generally grouped with laser printers because they use a similar technique for creating text or graphics. Both use a toner, drum, and fuser to provide high-quality prints. However, LED printers have an array of light-emitting diodes instead of a laser and mirror.
Since LED printers contain fewer moving parts, they are more reliable and efficient than traditional laser printers. Plus, they are cheaper to manufacture and less prone to mechanical wear.
- Contains fewer moving parts
- Inexpensive and reliable
- Provides excellent image quality
- High initial cost
- Slower printing speed than laser printers
As of now, only a few manufacturers (including Xerox, Panasonic, and Oki Electric Industry) make office and business printers using LED technology.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a multifunctional printer?
A multifunctional printer serves the primary purpose of scanning, copying, and printing documents. It can also email, fax, even browse the internet and print straight from the display panel. Some multifunctional printers offer finishing options like folding, hole punching, stapling, and booklet making.
Moreover, all-in-one printing devices come with features oriented to home and personal use. Unlike larger machines, they include direct connection to digital cameras, smart card readers, and other similar functions.
What type of printer is best for home use?
For office and home use, you should either go with an inkjet or laser printer. If you are a designer or photographer, go for an inkjet printer. If your work involves printing documents, graphs, and colored reports, you should definitely choose a laser printer. Although it costs more upfront, it is much more economical than an inkjet printer in the long run.
Which printer has the fastest printing speed?
Laser printer is known to be the fastest printing machine. Some high-end models can print about 200 monochrome pages per minute (PPM) or 100 colored pages per minute, or higher.
What is offset printing?
In offset printing, the inked image is printed on a rubber cylinder and then moved (or offset) to paper or other substrates. The rubber cylinder makes it easier to print on rough paper, cloth, leather, wood, and metal.
The offset printing method is based on the principle that grease and water never mix. Thus greasy ink can be deposited on specially treated printing areas of the plate, while non-printing portions, which hold water, reject the ink.
This technique is used for bulk printing of media, including large quantities of newspapers, magazines, brochures, and stationeries.