Types of printers

If you go to any offices and some homes you will always find some electronic device connected to a computer and is used to put words onto papers. Yes, that is what a printer looks like. But what are its functions? In this article we attempt to explore the world of printers and seek to define what a printer actually is.

This should help to inform you if you so much want to buy a printer either for office or home use.

What is a printer

A printer can be defined as an external output device that takes data from a computer and use it to generate an output in the form of graphics or text usually printed on paper. Printers can also put graphics and text onto other material such as plastic in the case of ID cards or cloth in the case of T-shirts.

The printing process in itself features some unique and not so complicated mechanisms. Consequently, printers become divided up into different categories dependent on either a printer is impact or non-impact based.

Impact printers feature the dotmatrix printer which has long seized to be as popular as it was in the 80s and 90s. This largely owes to the numerous technological innovations which have resulted in non-impact printers being popular as well as have a broad category of printers.

In the non-impact printers category, a printer can either be a laser based printer, an inkjet, dye sublimation and/or thermal printer.

Dotmatrix printer (Impact printer)

This was by far the most popular printer before the advent of inkjet and laser printers. The term dot matrix referees to the use of dots to form an image where the quality of the image is determined by the number of dots per inch.

Best dot matrix printers use print heads with pins to strike an ink ribbon and place hundreds to thousands of dots to form text and/or images to a paper. Today, these printers are utilised far less than they used to be and this is largely because of their low-quality images and their generally slow printing speed.

Inkjet printer (Non-Impact printers)

Inkjet printers are devices of choice for home-based use and are famed for their fine print quality. Because inkjet printers have an inclination towards producing fine print detail, they have thus become so popular.

An inkjet printer prints character by spraying patterns of ink onto a paper from a nozzle or jet. The nozzle features very fine holes from which a specially made ink is pumped out to create letters and shapes following a reflective plate. Inkjet printer are not only favoured for their fine printouts, they are also very affordable which makes them well suitable for home use. With an inkjet printer there are no waiting periods from when you turn the printer on and starting your printing process.

However, inkjet printers can further be categorised as single-function and multi-function inkjet printers.  Each category of design has afunctional purposes which gives it an edge over the other in doing certain type of print job.

Single-function Inkjet printer

This type of printer is designed specifically for one purpose which is printing and they consequently have a relatively affordable upfront cost.

This printer type is quite advantageous inthat majority of these printers can handle basic black and colour printing all at once. This makes this printer type ideal for printing such things as colour photos or general documents. 

This printer type features ink cartridges which tend to be costly on the long run especially when you want to replace them. This would however depend on the printer model you would have chosen from this category.  A closer look at printers reveal that the least priced printer has a tendency of having high priced cartridges.

Multi-function Inkjet printer

This printer type was designed to do various jobs which can either be photocopying, actual printing, faxing and scanning. 

This printer is available for both black and colour printing and because of their multifunctionality, they count for a smart choice for home offices. Just like the single-function printer, this printer also uses ink cartridges and prints in black and colour. The same goes with its cartridges as the single function printer and you find instances where some printer models are priced the same as their cartridges. To this effect, it might be critical that you perform a cost assessment before going ahead to buy the actual printer.

Photo Inkjet Printer

This printer, as its name suggests, is mainly meant for photo printing. You will find this printer to be common among professional photographers and it is famed for its extra fine print which brings photos to life. 

This printer does not use the regular ink cartridges, instead cartridges for this printer will either be pigment or dye based and some printers use a combination of both. Unlike the other printers, this model is designed to work specifically with a variety of photo papers as well as different print sizes.

These printers are generally very costly and purchasing them is usually regarded as an investment. By default, cartridges to these printers are generally expensive as well and they use between 6 and 12 ink cartridges. So you can imagine the expense of maintaining this printer.

Ink Tank Printers

These printers fit well into the inkjet printer’s category and are specifically designed to counter the nag of having to replace ink cartridges every now and then.

With this printer, instead of buying new cartridges you buy ink bottles which you use to refill the attached ink tanks. These printers use high capacity ink tanks which make it highly priced for its ability to produce thousands of prints at very affordable costs per page.

Purchasing this printer can come at an expense but they will save you tremendous amounts of money on the long run.

Laser Printers (Non-Impact printers)

This printer type is well suited for office use and can cope very well with mass scale printing.

To understand how this printer functions a laser beam is used in the printing process. Data to be printed is produced by the laser as image projected onto a drum. The light from the laser will alter the electrical charge of the drum which then picks up the tonner. The tonner is then transferred to the paper through a combination of heat and pressure. Put simply, it works in a similar fashion as that of a photocopier.

This printer type has two model types of printers in which one is a colour laser printerand the other a monochrome type printer.

Colour Laser Printers

This printer is well suited for business setups as it can do its print job with great flexibility while its cost savings is incredible.

Although it produces high quality print outs, this printer is, however, not suitable for photo printing. Instead, it can surely print such things as business reports, graphics and illustrations with magnificent quality.

This printer makes use of four tonners which can make their replacement quite expensive. Fortunately, you only need to replace each cartridge as at when it is needed. This printer has a higher page yield which perfectly accounts for its high price.

Monochrome laser printer

This printer is perfectly suited for businesses that require heavy-duty printing which is exclusively text based.

This printer type is very much cost effective and quite efficient in its print job. It only uses a black toner cartridge which actually goes a long way in keeping the printing costs rather low. This is because this printer is specifically designed to produce high value print outs at an incredibly low operating cost which makes it very suitable for heavy duty office use.


There you have it, when it comes to printers there is a broad range of choices from which you can select your preference. However, it is important that you perform thorough prior research before finally purchasing one. Some printers will come cheaply but be costly in their maintenance while other printers may seem expensive yet they would be cost effective on the long run.