Printer is a device that prints information (text, pictures, etc.) from computer on paper. First printers appeared in the 1950th and developed together with computers. Nowadays, there exist several basic printing technologies almost equal by the quality and capacity. Despite the facts that any of us uses printers nearly every day, choosing an appropriate device may become a big problem. Home use requires completely different characteristics than office use; printers that show great results on printing documents may be absolutely useless for photos. To make a good decision you should be aware of various printing technologies and differences between them.
Inkjet printers are in great request. The technology used here is in some ways close to dot-matrix pioneers. The image is created from dots of ionized ink sprayed at a sheet of paper. The image received usually has great quality, though the majority of inkjet printers use water-based inks. This means that any drop of water might wash them out and any careless move might smear the text. Nevertheless, inkjet printers are total leaders if we speak about printing photos. These days inkjet technology raised the level when photos printed at home are as good as the ones made in a professional studio. Such printers may be not very expensive to buy, but there’s a thing to consider. They can’t print big numbers of pages and run out of colors too quickly. Inkjets are a good thing for home use, but their maintenance would be costly enough for offices with a lot of documentation to print. In order to decide this problem, users may install continuous ink supply system (CISS). How does it work? Well, after CISS installation your cartridges will never dry – inks are kept in special tanks and are delivered to printer with the help of capillary system. CISS helps to save up to 95% of maintenance cost, so some manufacturers started to produce printers with built-in CISS system. None the less, inkjet printers are widely used for printing street banners and making pictures on clothes, souvenirs and even nails!
First laser printers were constructed in the 80th by Hewlett-Packard, though this type of printing was invented in 1938 and was called “electrophotography”. Laser printing today is notable for its high speed and quality. They use the same technology as copy machines: computer buffers the page and transmits the image of it to printer; laser beam projects this information on a drum which rolls through toner, toner “sticks” to the charged areas of the drum and then imprints on a sheet of paper with the help of pressure and high temperature. Such print is sturdy against rub and humidity, the image is more accurate than the one from an inkjet printer. Laser devices are widespread in offices, because supplies for them are of really low cost, though these printers are usually the most expensive and they also have another disadvantage – laser color pictures are worse than those printed with inks. Another thing is the printer’s size. Color laser printers are as usual huge and heavy, because they consist of several toner cartridges. This also increases the maintenance cost a lot.
In these days, LED printers are becoming more and more popular. LED technology is quite similar to laser. As clear from the name, they use light-emitted diodes instead of laser. These printers are more reliable, have higher printing speed and show better image quality, so the only disadvantage is their high price.
Almost any portable device today is wirelessly connected to the internet. We use laptops, smartphones, headphones and many other things that don’t need any wires to be joined to the worldwide web. Wireless technology is rising rapidly and there’s no surprise that wireless printers are becoming more and more in demand. This technology is based on Wi-Fi or, less often, Bluetooth connection. Both laser and inkjet printers may be wireless. This solution allows using printer by few computers at once and placing it anywhere in the room.
This technology made possible the invention of mobile printers. Their small size makes it convenient to take them in journey, which is comfortable for people who have to work while travelling. Lots of mobile printers use Bluetooth connection, so it’s possible to print documents from almost every device: laptops, smartphones or tablets. In case you consider buying a mobile printer, be aware of some of its peculiarities.
- Their printing speed might be significantly lower than of cable connected machines.
- As any mobile device, printer needs to be charged, time of work is different for various models according to the type of battery they work on.
- Big number of pages can’t be printed at once as well as the quality of copies could be quite low.
All-in-one printers, also known as multifunction printers (MFPs) provide a possibility not only to print documents, but to copy, scan and fax them as well. These printers may be both inkjet and laser and there are different models for home and office use. MFPs are rather economical in use – you need just one cartridge, not several like for a printer, copy machine and fax. Convenience is important too – it takes less space than three or four devices.
How to choose an appropriate MFP for home?
The best characteristics for home all-in-one printer are following: printing speed 8-20 p/m with a source tray for 250 sheets and monthly capacity up to 10000 pages. Choose an inkjet device if you are enthusiastic about photo printing and a laser one if you work with documents and texts.
How to choose MFP for office?
In case you are an owner of a small business, suitable characteristics are: printing speed 31 p/m, source tray for 500 sheets, monthly capacity up to 30000 and a possibility to use memory cards and flash-drives. For a bigger enterprise choose a multitask device that includes not only printer, scanner, copy machine and fax, but also soft binding, folding, clam clip dispensing and joint forming. Sheet size has to be not less than A3. Network-based mailing, automatic sheet feed and duplex printing are also recommended.
It still may sound fantastic, but 3d printers are devices that allow creating a real object from a virtual model of it. The first attempts to create a 3D printer were undertaken in the 1980th; it was called stereolithography and based on the qualities of liquid resin which stiffens affected by laser. Production and improvement of 3d printers has been in progress since then, but they became popular and widely used only within the last ten years.
The majority of modern 3d printers work like this.
- User creates a virtual model of an object with the help of specific programs.
- Special software processes a 3d model by dividing it into dozens of cross bands.
- Feed chamber applies composite powder layer by layer.
- Printer’s axis spreads the powder in a thin layer.
- Jet printing head applies colorless glue before the application of every next layer.
- The following layer of the powder is glued to the previous and this process continues until an object is finished.
Different 3d printing technologies may use laser or ultraviolet instead of glue.
3d printers are widely used in scientific area because of possibility to print models with jointed movable parts. Architects, archeologists, jewelers and specialists in many other areas have already appreciated the advantages and prospective of 3d printing. By the way, 3d scanners exist too. It means that some objects might be scanned to create virtual models of them and then printed again! Although 3d printers lighten tasks in a lot of professional areas, they could also be used for fun! Nowadays, 3d printers are expensive but available even for home use. Creating your own virtual models requires special knowledge, but think of an excitement and satisfaction you feel after printing your first object!