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How Inkjet Technology Works

Posted by BK on 30th Dec 2020

Inkjet printers are a popular alternative to laser printers, especially when you’re looking for an inexpensive way to print color labels, pages, photos, charts, and business documents. As the name implies, inkjet printers use inks rather than dry toner used by laser printers. Let’s take a look at how inkjet technology works.

There are two main types of inkjet technology: thermal bubble and Piezoelectric.

  • Thermal Bubble — With a thermal inkjet printer, small resistors generate heat, which vaporizes the ink to form a bubble. Thus, these inkjet printers are often called “bubble jet printers.” The bubble pushes the ink out as it expands. When it eventually bursts, fresh ink is pulled into the printhead due to a vacuum effect caused by the ink cooling and contracting. The typical “bubble jet” inkjet printer can produce two droplet sizes and has hundreds of nozzles, each bubbling out ink simultaneously to produce a printed image. Canon and HP both manufacture bubble jet printers.
  • Piezoelectric — Also known as Micropiezo Technology, which was developed by Epson, piezoelectric technology uses electricity, crystals, ceramics, and mechanical pressure rather than resistors and heat to push ink out of the jets. Crystals expand and contract when electricity is applied to them, which creates a pump action used to create spherical ink droplets. Since the current can be controlled rapidly, piezo print heads allow for greater control over ink droplet formation. Epson also uses Variable Size Dot Technology (VSDT) to control the size and ink volume of up to 50,000 droplets ejected per second, resulting in extreme precision, fast printing speeds, and grain-free images.
  • Another related inkjet technology by Epson, PrecisionCore Printhead Technology is an advanced form of Micropiezo Technology. Epson PrecisionCore Micro TFP (thin film piezoelectric) print chips are modular and can be configured in a variety of different ways. They feature thin-film piezoelectric actuators, which fire ink droplets just 1 micron thick. PrecisionCore produces high quality images at extremely fast speeds.

Ink Types

Heat can alter ink properties, which is why thermal inkjet printers tend to use dye-based inks. Micropiezo and PrecisionCore printers have broader ink compatibility so they can use dye, pigment, eco-solvents, and UV-cured inks.

Dye inks tend to be the most vivid, but they are prone to fading over time. Pigment inks are less vivid but far more durable. They also dry instantly, don’t smudge or smear, and resist fading for decades — in some cases more than a century.

Ink Containers

Inkjet printers need a steady supply of ink in order to print documents throughout their lifetimes. There are several approaches to storing ink in a printer.

  • Ink cartridges — You’re likely familiar with inkjet printers that use ink cartridges. The ink cartridges may contain a single color or multiple colors. Simply insert the ink cartridge into the printer, print documents, and then replace when the ink runs out. One major criticism of inkjet printers involves the frequent replacement of oftentimes costly ink cartridges. Inkjet printer manufacturers have responded by producing high capacity ink cartridges.
  • Ink tanks — Epson’s Supertank and HP’s Smart Tank printers use large internal ink reservoirs to store larger volumes of ink and bring the cost of replacement ink down. These ink tanks are refillable with ink bottles. Cartridge-free printing is an economical choice that reduces user interventions, ink waste, and ink cartridge waste.
  • Replaceable Ink Packs — Another innovation by Epson is the Replaceable Ink Pack System (RIPS). Rather than using ink cartridges, RIPS printers use large replaceable ink packs that can yield up to 80,000 pages before needing to be replaced. Like ink tanks, replaceable ink packs reduce ink and cartridge waste and require fewer user interventions. Depending on the printer model, a single replaceable ink pack can be the equivalent of dozens of ink cartridges.

Inkjet Printer Mechanical Parts

No matter which type of inkjet technology, ink type, or ink container is used, inkjet printers have a few mechanical parts used to transform liquid ink into printed images. These parts include:

  • Power supply
  • Control circuitry
  • Print head — The print head contains the nozzles or jets used to spray ink droplets onto the page. Note: some printers use stationary, page-wide print heads.
  • Motor — A small motor is used to move the print head assembly back and forth across the page. Stationary print heads do not require this part.
  • Belt — A belt connects the motor and the print head.
  • Stabilizer bar — A stabilizer bar is used to ensure precise, controlled movements.
  • Paper tray, rollers, and motor — Paper is stored in a paper tray until printing begins. A motor pulls the paper along a series of rollers, moving it through the printer.
  • Interface ports — Printer ports such as parallel, serial, USB, wireless, and Bluetooth ports provide connectivity to computers and mobile devices.

Energy Consumption

Inkjet printers use much less energy than laser printers, roughly 30-50 watts for a home inkjet or 300 to 500 for an office inkjet printer versus 300 to 550 watts for a home laser printer and up to 1,000 watts for a business laser printer. In fact, laser printers typically require a 220-volt outlet due to their power consumption. Laser printers must warm up to nearly 400 degrees Fahrenheit before they begin printing, leading to much higher energy costs than inkjet printers.

Even in standby, printers consume energy. Many printers have automatic shutoff features so they turn off after a predetermined amount of time.

Is a Business Inkjet Printer the Right Choice For Your Office?

High ink costs and tiny ink cartridges have been the Achilles’ heel of business inkjet printers for decades, making them hard to compete with laser printers. Color laser printers have yet to become affordable for many office use cases. Fortunately, recent innovations in inkjet technology such as Epson’s PrecisionCore Heat-Free Technology make color printing affordable. Epson’s business inkjet printers offer outstanding print quality, fast print speeds, exceptional reliability, affordable ink solutions, low energy costs, and all of the features you’d expect of an office printer / photocopier.

DuraFast Label Company offers a free print cost analysis so you can discover just how affordable color printing can be. Request your free, no obligation print cost analysis now.