5 Printing Technologies Uncovered

December 15, 2015

 

1. Thermal

Thermal transfer printing uses a thermal printhead to apply heat to a material that is being marked. The printhead applied heat to a thermal ribbon which produces an image on the material.  Common applications: product identification, permanent identification, asset tagging, certification labels, cold storage, outdoor applications.

Direct thermal printing also uses a thermal printhead, but there is no ribbon used in this process.  Instead, the media that is run through the printer is chemically treated and heat-sensitive which blackens when it passes under the printhead.  Common application: shipping labels, receipts, pick tickets, name tags.

Commonly used thermal printer manufacturers: Zebra, Citizen, Sato, Datamax

2. Dot Matrix

Dot Matrix printing uses hammers and a ribbon to form images out of dots.  The dot matrix printer uses one or two columns of dot hammers that are moved across the paper.  The hammers hit the ribbon into the paper, which causes the ink to be deposited.  The more hammers, the higher the resolution.  For example, 9-pin heads produce draft quality text, while 24-pin heads produce typewriter quality output.  Speeds range from 200 to 400 cps, which is about 90 to 180 lpm.  Also known as a "serial dot matrix printer," the tractor and sprocket mechanism in these devices handles thicker media better than laser and inkjet printers.  Common applications: multipart forms, address labels.  

Commonly used dot matrix printer manufacturers: Printek, Oki Data

3. Line Matrix

A line matrix printer is a computer printer that builds up a line of text by printing lines of dots.  Line matrix printing incorporates a unique shuttle-based technology that lays down a matrix of dots and print barcodes, graphics and text.  Common applications: invoices, bank statements, transportation documents.

Commonly used line matrix printer manufacturers: Genicom, Printronix

4. Laser

The laser printer uses electrostatic charges to:

  • Create an image on the drum
  • Adhere toner to the image
  • Transfer the toned image to the paper
  • Fuse the toner to the paper

The laser produces high-quality text and graphics by "painting" a negative of the page to be printed on the charged drum.  Where light falls, the charge is dissipated, leaving a positive image to be printed.  Common applications: document printing.

Commonly used laser printer manufacturers: HP, Oki Data, Brother

5. Inkjet

An Inkjet printer is a computer printer that recreates a digital image by using drops of ink (black, cyan, magenta, yellow) onto a substrate.  Inkjet printers are the most commonly used type of printers and range from small consumer models to larger professional machines.  Common applications: document printing, product labeling.

Commonly used inkjet printer manufacturers: Canon, HP, Epson, Lexmark


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