Printing technologies come in an incredibly wide variety, to cope with such a diversity of situations. What are the most often used devices for printing? First, consider that there is a big difference between domestic and commercial printing. A larger volume of printed material means that an entirely different technology is needed.
Inkjet printersInkjet printers spray ink onto the paper sheet. Ink is ionized and then directed to form specific shapes using magnetized plates. 600 dpi is the most common resolution for this type of printer.
Digital inkjet printers are the most popular printing devices for domestic use, offices and small businesses. A significant upside of this technology is that the principle is quite simple and most of the necessary components are found within the ink cartridge. This means that inkjet printers are inexpensive (but the cartridges are not) and that they can be built in small sizes – mobile printers that you may easily carry wherever you go, are possible.
While the most common application is small scale printing, inkjet technology is also used in high-volume printing.
Solid ink printersThese devices use solid doses of ink (sticks formed of wax-like material), that are melted and applied to the sheet. The advantage is that any kind of paper can be used to obtain good results, not only inkjet paper. This means saving money. However, due to the lower print quality, solid ink printers are not so widely used.
Laser printersWhen a LED-produced laser beam is used to ionize a drum and the drum is rolled through toner and transferred to a paper, high-quality images are obtained.
Laser printers are fast and more economical, on a long term. However, the initial costs for buying the printers and toner (especially for multi-colour toner) are high.
Such devices are rather widely used in homes and offices, but the main application is in large-volume printing. Most commercial copy machines use laser technology.
Dot matrix printersThese devices use an impact printing process, which would seem old-fashioned at a first glance. Indeed, the output is not great, but there are still many advantages. Low operating costs and high speed for instance, but also the ability to produce multi-page forms (impossible with laser or inkjet printers).
Such printers are ideal for printing bills, invoices, official forms and other such documents.
Multifunction printersOr all-in-one printers, if you prefer, are gaining more and more popularity among individual users. It is not actually another printing technology. They can be ink or laser-based, but their main feature is that they allow scanning, photocopying documents and, sometimes, faxing and e-mailing.
Ideal for home and office use, they are of little use in large-scale printing.
Plotters printersThese devices have a moving pen that delivers the ink to the paper. They are mostly used for large printing projects, like drawings, posters and other types of artwork. They provide high resolution and image quality.
Offset (lithographic) printersLithography is the most commonly used technology in commercial printing. Images on metal plates are transferred to rubber rollers and then to the paper.
Sheet-fed printers print individual pages, while web printers are used in mass production.
While wood, fabric and other materials can be printed onto, paper remains the primary one.
Most newspapers are printed this way.