Be­neath the Hood: Inkjet Print­ers

Learn about inkjet Tech­nol­ogy: Its ad­van­tages and dis­ad­van­tages

HWM (Singapore) - - LEARN - TEXT // HAFEEZ SIM

While the typ­i­cal inkjet printer may not seem like a very im­pres­sive de­vice, there’s ac­tu­ally some pre­ci­sion tech­nol­ogy in­volved that en­ables you print a high-qual­ity photo print or a text doc­u­ment. Here’s a guide on how it all comes to­gether when you start print­ing a job.



Inkjet print­ers can be found every­where, from the home to the of­fice. Mod­els range from in­ex­pen­sive home ver­sions to the high-end mod­els that can print A3-sized photo prints for pro­fes­sional use, but what makes the inkjet so pop­u­lar?

For starters, inkjet print­ers are ver­sa­tile; they of­fer users good photo print qual­ity as well as ac­cept­able text qual­ity. They are also able to print on a va­ri­ety of me­dia such as glossy paper, cards and iron-on trans­fer pa­pers. And most en­try-level mod­els are very af­ford­able, ap­peal­ing to those on a budget.

But the inkjet printer isn’t with­out its flaws. While the cost of the printer it­self may not be very high (com­pared to a laser printer of a sim­i­lar class), re­place­ment ink is quite costly. When com­par­ing the cost per page be­tween a lower-end inkjet printer and a lower-end laser printer you may not see much of a dif­fer­ence, but the cost per page for laser print­ers drop when you start mov­ing into the mid-range mod­els. Un­less you’re buy­ing an en­try-level inkjet printer, the cost per page will gen­er­ally be lower with laser print­ers. Some inkjet mod­els also pro­duce less than sharp text, which is bad news if the bulk of your print jobs con­sist of busi­ness documents. And while it may go ei­ther way in terms of speed with the lower-end laser and inkjet print­ers, laser print­ers are gen­er­ally faster than their inkjet coun­ter­parts.



Inkjet print­ers print by push­ing ink through the noz­zles in a print head. These small dots of ink then cre­ate an im­age. The more dots the printer can squeeze in a square inch (dpi or dots per inch), the higher the qual­ity of the print. But how does the printer push the ink through the noz­zles?

Con­tem­po­rary inkjets use ei­ther the ther­mal inkjet process or piezo­elec­tric tech­nol­ogy. Most con­sumer brands such as Canon and HP em­ploy the ther­mal inkjet process. For ther­mal inkjets, each ink car­tridge con­tains minute cham­bers, and when a cur­rent is passed-through the heat­ing el­e­ment in the cham­bers, the ink va­por­izes and forms a bub­ble. The for­ma­tion of the bub­ble causes a large pres­sure in­crease in the cham­ber, which pushes the ink droplet onto the paper. As no spe­cial ma­te­ri­als are re­quired for this printer tech­nol­ogy, the print head for ther­mal inkjets are gen­er­ally cheaper to pro­duce com­pared to the piezo­elec­tric print­ers.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers that em­ploy the piezo­elec­tric tech­nol­ogy in­clude Brother and Ep­son. In­stead of us­ing heat to push the ink onto the paper, when a cur­rent is passed through the piezo­elec­tric ma­te­rial, the ma­te­rial changes shape and cre­ates pres­sure, which then forces the ink out through the noz­zle. Due to the na­ture of a piezo­elec­tric printer, there’s less buildup of ink residue when com­pared to a ther­mal inkjet, and thus print qual­ity is less likely to suf­fer.



Depend­ing on your us­age, higher dpi may not nec­es­sar­ily be bet­ter. For print­ing sim­ple lists or even busi­ness documents, 300dpi is more than suf­fi­cient. How­ever, dpi aside, the type of ink used will ac­tu­ally make a dif­fer­ence as well.

Inkjet print­ers gen­er­ally use two types of inks: dye-based inks and pig­ment-based inks. Dye-based inks are ba­si­cally colored liq­uids and are bet­ter at blend­ing col­ors and thus pro­duce bet­ter pho­to­graphic prints. Dye-based inks also have bet­ter bright­ness and a broader color range when com­pared to pig­ment-based inks. How­ever, dye-based prints are also more prone to shift­ing of col­ors and fad­ing, which is bad news if you make a liv­ing sell­ing prints. No one wants to have a cus­tomer re­turn and com­plain about your prints fad­ing or chang­ing col­ors.

Pig­ment-based inks are liq­uids that con­tain par­ti­cles of color sus­pended in them. While the fibers of the paper you print on will ab­sorb dye-based inks, the par­ti­cles in pig­ment-based inks sit on top of the paper, which ex­plains the longevity of pig­ment-based prints. Pig­ment-based inks are able to pro­duce cleaner and more pre­cise text, while also of­fer­ing bet­ter color sta­bil­ity and longevity for your prints.

It’s hard to beat an inkjet printer when it comes to print­ing pho­tos and colored graph­ics.

Some print­ers use a com­bi­na­tion of both inks. For ex­am­ple, a HP printer may use a black pig­ment-based ink as well as a dye-based color ink car­tridge.

The Ep­son Ul­traChrome K3 se­ries of inks are an ex­am­ple of pig­ment-based inks.

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