Anybody who knows me well, knows how much I hate printers!   A strange thing to hate, you may think, but every time I get a call asking to install a new printer or fix an existing one, I know it’s going to be trouble!   It doesn’t always have to be difficult though..

Let’s take a step back first and look at the history of printers.

Printers first appeared back in 1938 when Chester Carlson invented a printing process called electrophotography.   This was commonly called Xerox – a brand that is still going strong in the printer market today.   Xerox engineer Gary Starkweather developed the technology further by adding a laser beam to the process, and the first Laser Printer was born.

In 1953, the first high-speed printer was developed by Remington Rand and was used on the Univac computer.    By 1957, the dot matrix printer was being marketed by IBM and became one of the most popular types of printers for years to come.

Inkjet printers only became popular in the 1980s and had taken more than twenty years to develop.   Their speed and high quality quickly made dot matrix printers obsolete.

Today we generally have laser and inkjet printers, so let’s take a look at how they work, along with the pros and cons of each technology.

Firstly Inkjets.   When you look at how an inkjet works, it really is a marvel of modern technology.   And the most advanced part is in the print head which more often than not is in the consumable ink cartridge that you regularly trash when you need more ink!

An inkjet works by spraying a pattern of coloured dots as the print head is moved over the page.   The jets are extremely accurate and spray a pattern of different colours with up to around 600 dots per inch on the paper.   This is sufficient to print a fine quality photo and is really where ink jets excel.

However, there are some drawbacks to inkjet printers – the first of which is the price of the ink.   Printer manufacturers sell the printers nearly at cost, but it’s the ink where they make their money.   By selling you a cheap printer, you’re hooked on having to buy expensive ink from them in the future.   In fact printer ink is the most expensive fluid in the world.   More valuable than gold, more even than Space Shuttle fuel!   One gallon of HP printer ink is worth around $4257!

A sneaky little trick that you might not realise – when you buy a new inkjet printer, the cartridges that typically come with it are termed “starter” cartridges and are only half full!

Now inkjet printers are great for printing photographs and colour/black & white documents, and are cheap to buy, but they do have a drawback if you don’t use them very often.   Those tiny nozzles that spray the ink on the page can get clogged up with ink as it dries over time.  This can cause streaks over the page when you print, because the printer can’t push the ink through certain nozzles.   They can also get really messy if you have a paper jam which can result in ink patterns on the roller that pushes the paper through the printer.   Unfortunately, inkjet printers are almost considered consumable now given their low price, so they tend to get replaced when problems like this occur.   This can become expensive though if you’re left with ink cartridges that are incompatible.

The other common option is a laser printer.   Initially, these may seem more expensive, however they don’t suffer from the same problems that inkjets do.

They work by scanning a laser beam back and forth across a drum inside the printer.   This builds up a pattern of static electricity which attracts the toner (a dry powdered ink).   A high temperature (392 F) fuser then bonds the toner to the ink.   You might think that the paper would catch fire, but the whole process is so quick that the paper doesn’t get that hot!

Lasers produce a nice sharp, matte image on the page and are excellent at printing documents – especially if you don’t use them too often.   A laser printer can sit there for a year not being used and then work perfectly when you next come to print.   Something to consider if you have a printer at a cottage that you only use seasonally!

Inkjets however have the edge when it comes to printing photos, so there are pros and cons to each option.   If you’re printing lots of photos and the occasional document then an inkjet printer is a better option.   If you’re printing documents, or only infrequently, then I’d suggest a laser printer.

I hope this helps if you’re considering a new printer.   As always, if you have any questions, please get in touch!