Types of Printers
There are two main types of printing mechanisms that conventional printers can be found in: the laser printer and the inkjet printer, using quite different components and physical printing process.
LASER: Laser printers use a laser gun to project light representing the image of the document to print, onto a photosensitive drum which then uses static electricity to imprint toner ink onto paper. Laser printers are typically faster in operation and sometimes better in quality, but relatively more expensive than inkjet printers.
INKJET: Inkjet printers use a mechanical system that navigates a printhead component containing ink tubes over the paper according to the original image of the document to print. The ink is released using heat, which is controlled by internal electronics to correspond with when there is image information or not to print. The process is slower than a laser printer – though this factor is improving with modern inkjets – but their running costs are lower, especially to replace the ink cartridges compared to laser printer toner, and the even more expensive drum.
Just as copiers, printers can either be monochrome (black and white) or colour printers. Black and white printers are far less expensive, and relative to a colour printer with the same technical specifications and capabilities, can be faster at printing as there is less coordination required for ink colours.
This is more applicable in laser printers where the difference is between using a single toner for black and white printing, and multiple toners for colour printing. Inkjets are typically found in colour as the mechanism of having a moving printhead with all the ink colours together, is no less time consuming if there is only one colour of ink as opposed to many tubes releasing ink during the print process.
One of the most important attributes of printers is the volume of production within a given period of time, usually defined by per minute. Printers are now created especially to cater for different levels of volume required, and can be the deciding factor for the type of printer purchased.
The volume of printing reflects the copy capabilities in a printer copier. The volume production per minute can vary based on whether it a purely monochromatic printing system or in colour. However, as a guide, these are the approximate levels of volume printing:
Mid Volume: 30-50 pages per minute, up to approximately 30,000 per month
High Volume: 50-80 pages per minute, up to approximately 100,000 per month
Many mid to high volume printer copiers can be used with an attachment that has different exit paper tray formations to reflect printing requirements. Some have fewer trays but of different sizes, while others have many trays to simultaneously print multiple copies at once by increasing the number of paper exits. However, this flexibility will entirely depend on the printer copier’s printing capabilities and available output areas.
Most conventional business printer copiers are created to print up to A3 paper size, with exit paper trays often for both A4 and A3 prints and copies.
Production printers can often handle larger size prints, while Wide Format printers are primarily used for large size printing, such as for banners and posters.
Wide format printers also tend to use continuous roll paper to print so that any dimension can be achieved within the limited large width of the printer copier. After printing is complete, the machine will cut away the print from the roll of paper.
Wide format printers can be either an analogue or digital as analogue printers can produce a higher degree of accuracy without pixilation, and this is often more of a desirable attribute in typical wide format printing applications, such as printing large scale graphics, instead of attributes such as speed.