Printers and Printing Supplies Overview

What Are Printers?

Printers are devices that can accept information from a computer, through cables or wirelessly, that will then take the digital graphics and text output and transmit it to paper. Printers are common office items today, and even most households will have at least one printer on hand. Printers range in size, type, style, speed, and quality, as well as in cost. Businesses and professionals in need of high-resolution printing often use high-end printers, while the consumer level printers in homes are generally used for text printing and occasionally for photo printing.

When most consumers are choosing printers, they are looking for several specific qualities in order to determine which printers are right for their jobs. The speed of the printer is important for those who do a substantial amount of printing. Some of the most cost effective printers on the market will have printing speeds of about three to six sheets per minute, but color printing is slower. Most of the printers will indicate how many pages they print per minute in color as well as in black.

Resolution, which refers to how sharp the graphics and text are, is also an important feature for most. Most of the printers on the low end of the market have at least 600 dots per inch, which is a decent quality for most purposes. The costlier printers may have greater resolutions, but they have larger price tags associated with them as well.

Some of the most popular companies that make printers include Hewlett-Packard, Canon, Panasonic, Xerox, Epson, Samsung, Dell, and Lexmark. Printers are readily available through a number of different locations, including electronics stores such as Best Buy, as well as Target and Walmart. They are available through online sellers as well. The cost will vary based on the features of the printer, the type of printer, and the brand.


What Types of Printers Exist?

Because of the many different types of needs between homes and businesses, many different types of printers are available today. The very first high-speed computer printer was in use all the way back in 1953, when Remington-Rand developed it for the Univac Computer. In the years that have passed, the world has seen quite a few other iterations of printers, and today they are so affordable that most people can afford them with little trouble at all. The most common and popular types of printers on the market today include inkjet printers, laser printers, label printers, dot matrix printers, and the new 3D printers.


Inkjet Printers

This is the most common type of printer for home use, as well for some office use in the case of the high-end inkjet printers that can cost many thousands of dollars. The printer creates the digital image by jetting drops of ink onto paper. These printers utilize cartridges that fit into the printer. When the paper goes through the printer, the cartridge tracks go back and forth across the paper in order to add the text or images.

Many of the inkjet printers on the market today can print at 600 dots per inch, or dpi, which is of sufficient quality for most applications. Some printers may have only 300 dpi, which should be good enough for text. These are the most common types of printer available, and one of the biggest reasons for their popularity is the relatively low cost.


Laser Printers

These printers are a bit more complicated, and a bit more expensive, than the inkjet printers are. They work in a fashion similar to copy machines. The laser printer uses a laser beam, which produces an image on a drum. The laser changes the electrical charge on the locations it hits on the drum. The drum rolls over toner, and because of the altered electrical charge, the drum picks up the toner in the locations of the charge. The toner then transfers to the paper and produces the text or image required.

The resolution of these printers can vary. The low-end printers, which can still be rather expensive, may have only 300 dpi. The more expensive high-end printers can output up to 1,200 dpi. Both monochrome and color laser printers are available. Of course, the color printers are very expensive in comparison to the monochrome printers.


Label Printers

These printers have a very specialized job. They print labels and tags, and many of them have built-in keyboards and displays that make them useable without having to connect to a computer. They are very different from a traditional printer, such as a laser or inkjet printer. They have special feeds to handle the labels, which typically come in rolls. They may be able to connect to a regular computer via USB, Ethernet, or parallel ports. Some of the available models actually have wireless capabilities as well.

Label printers are available for many different types of applications today. They are useful in many offices, labs, retail stores, and much more.


Dot Matrix Printers

Dot matrix printing, sometimes called impact matrix printing, has been around for a number of years. This printer uses a print head that runs back and forth across the paper, or in an up and down motion on the paper and prints through impact by striking a ribbon soaked in ink onto the paper. This is similar to how a typewriter works, albeit much faster. The printer does not use traditional keys as a typewriter would either. Instead, the letters are created via the dot matrix pins. The pins strike the paper to create a series of dots that make up the letters. This allows for different sorts of fonts.


3D Printers

3D printers are relative newcomers to the market, and most of them are still quite expensive. They have the ability to “print” items rather than print onto paper, and the process can seem almost magical until one looks deeper into it. The 3D printers can print items made of plastic, nylon, metal, and a host of other types of materials. They can print nearly anything that one can imagine. CAD drawings are now available online for a variety of different types of products.

When someone needs to create something in a 3D printer, they can search for the CAD specifications and then input those into the computer to start printing. Most people do not have 3D printers in their homes, at least not yet. However, as the technology expands, this could be a reality in the future. 3D printing has nearly unlimited potential.


What Are Portable and Modular Printers

These types of printers are starting to become more popular with barcode systems, but they have a number of different uses today. They can print text, graphics, webpages, and more and they work wirelessly. They utilize a special type of rolled printer paper that can handle the thermal printing properties of these types of printers. Many units have at least 300 dpi, and they are relatively small and easy to carry from place to place.


What Types of Accessories Do Printers Require?

Printers need to have certain types of accessories and components in order to function properly. Different sorts of printers will need to have different accoutrements, naturally. The following are some of the most common and popular sorts of accessories users of printers will need to have on hand, depending on the type of printer they are using.


What Are 3D Printer Filaments?

The plastic filaments are the “printing” material that the 3D printers use as a means to make various items. The filaments on the market today come in one of two different sizes – 1.75mm and 3mm. Printers will have specifications of which size filament they can use, and they will only work with that size. Filaments are available in different sizes and in different colors, and a variety of different manufacturers is making filaments today. Because 3D printing is new, buyers of filaments should consult with other users about which brands and types of material will be best for different applications before spending their money.


What Are Inkjet Cartridges

The inkjet cartridges will go into the inkjet printer. They have nozzles on the cartridge head, and the ink sprays onto the paper through those nozzles. The price of the cartridges varies based on the model and the brand, but they are generally under $50, with many coming in under $20 for the low-end printers.

For the most part, inkjet cartridges are proprietary. A Canon cartridge will not fit into an HP printer and vice versa. In addition, different printers will require specific cartridges from the manufacturer. The cartridge that works in one HP model will not work in another model. However, some third party cartridges are available for printers. They are generally cheaper, and they tend to work just as well as the official cartridges.


What Is Toner?

Toner is a powder that laser printers and photocopy machines use to form text and images on paper. The toner cartridges fit into the laser printers, and the electronically charged drum picks up the power from the cartridge to impart to the paper. They come in CMYK – cyan, magenta, yellow, and black in order to produce a wide range of different colors. Depending on the brand and the size of the cartridges, the prices can vary.


What Is Label Printer Ink?

Label printers are portable and they are not traditional printers with space for large inkjet cartridges or toner cartridges. Thus, they have a different method of writing on the labels. They utilize thermal printing for the most part rather than ink. However, there are still some that use ribbons and tapes as a means to add ink to the labels.


What Are Label Printer Ribbons?

The label printer ribbons, which some of the label printers require, come on spools, which then go to into the printer. This works similarly to a typewriter or a dot matrix printer as a means to add the ink to the labels.


What Are Label Printer Tapes?

Again, these will go into certain types of label makers. The tapes work similarly to the ribbons. They come in a number of different sizes as well, including ¼”, ½”, ¾”, and more. It is important for buyers to make sure they are always buying the right size and the right brand for their particular type of label maker.


What Are Label Printer Labels

The label printer labels come in just as many varieties. Some of them work with thermal printers, while others are for use with the ribbons and tapes. Again, whenever buying labels, it is important to get the right type and brand of label printer labels based on the printer being used.


What Are Printer Ribbons

Printer ribbons are ribbons that are generally on spools and sometimes encased in a cartridge. Dot matrix printers use these ink-soaked ribbons to create text and images primarily.


What Is Printer Paper? How Is Paper Different for the Various Printer Types?

There are many different types of printer paper on the market today, and each of those types of paper has a specific use. Matte paper is the best sort of paper for everyday use. It lets the ink dry quickly, so users do not have to worry about smudging the ink and getting it on clothing and hands. Glossy paper is the best choice for printing photos, but this type of paper takes quite a bit longer to try and people have to handle it with care after printing on it. Photo paper is a subset of glossy paper, and it allows the ink to dry a bit more quickly.

Bright white paper is perfect for double-sided use thanks to the smooth and un-textured surface. It works well with black text as well as with colors. Resume paper is thicker and looks more expensive. They are usually available in cream, off-white, and ivory. Card stock is thicker, and it will not go through some printers easily. Always check to see if the printer can handle cardstock. Some types of paper are specifically for inkjet printers, while others are for laser printers.