Inkjet Printers Explained

This article explains how piezoelectric and thermal heated inkjet printer systems work. Inkjet printers are by far the most commonly used printer technology due to low cost, ease of use and excellent color characteristics of the printer.

Major producers of inkjet printers include the well known printer brands Canon, Epson, HP and Lexmark.

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Brother LC01, LC02, LC04, LC21, LC25, LC31, LC41, LC51, LC61, LC65
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Inkjet printers are global bestsellers of today’s home tech market. They were released on the market already in 1976 but it took 12 years for the product to come down in price so the home consumers could afford buying it. HP with their DeskJet inkjet printer series made the printers "affordable" for all by selling their printer below $1000.

Article chapters:

1. How Inkjet Printers Work - Piezeoelectric v.s Thermal Heating
2. Inkjet Printers - Pros and Cons

How Inkjet Printers Work - Piezoelectric v.s Thermal Heating

Regardless of underlying technology all Inkjet printers are using the same basic set-up. An array of nozzles is arranged in a printhead to shoot precisely timed ink droplets on the paper.

The droplets are fired by two methods: piezoelectric vibrations or thermal heating

Piezoelectric

Piezoelectric crystals are used to create electric pulses causing vibrations. The pulses force ink droplets to be ejected through the nozzles in the printer onto the paper. One unique thing with the piezoelectric method is that variable-sized droplets can be created making it possible to print finer details.

Compared to the thermal heating technology, more nozzles are mounted in this framework which creates a better image quality. With this set up, ink of finer qualities can be used while minimizing ink usage at the same time. The reason why this technology is not more used in the market is that Epson have patented the design and currently only sell printers with this technology themselves.

Thermal heating

A metal plate in the inkjet cartridge receives an electric current heating the element causing ink to expand and bubble. The bubbles creates pressure forcing the ink to be pushed through the nozzles in the printhead. When the bubble cool off, vacuum is created attracting new ink into the nozzle.

This process is repeated with high frequency causing ink droplets to be ejected up to 4000 to 6000 times per second. The technology is “ink efficient” since unused droplets are deflected and returned to the ink tank automatically.

The technology was initially developed by HP and Canon, printers using the technology are also often referred to as Bubble Jet printers. Most consumer inkjet printers use the thermal heating technology including HP, Canon and Lexmark.

Inkjet Printers - Pros and Cons

Below listing of pros and cons for Inkjet Printers are in no way static. The Inkjet technology is still developed, as is Laser Printer technology, which means that the creation of a pro and cons list is a moving target.

Inkjet printers are generally Strong in the following areas:

  • Compact constructions even when combining different functions into a All In One Printer
  • Inexpensive to Buy, read more in the OEM Cartridges article on why
  • Fast when printing few printouts since no printer warm up time is needed
  • Wide acceptance of paper types (note: most printers are optimized for one or more paper types)

Inkjet printers are generally Weak in the following areas:

  • Expensive to Run, read the Compatible Ink Cartridges article on how to lower the ink supplies cost
  • Slow when printing many documents especially when printing in full color
  • Clogged nozzles in the print head leading to wasted ink or frequent running of nozzle cleaning program
  • Durability and print quality stability of printouts. This is very dependent upon ink type, ink quality and paper choice.

Recommended further reading:


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