Printer Buying Guide: What is a Printer and Types of Printers?

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Printer Buying Guide

A printer is a machine that prints, but it’s not where we conclude the statement or the definition. A printer is a fascinating machine printing on anything and almost everything in the modern world today. These machines are capable of turning your work simpler and faster. They get jobs done, exactly how you want, and on whatever surface and scale you need. Yes, the modern-day printers are capable of printing a dot to billboards and on wood, metal, and yes definitely on papers.

Printers are stapling these days in offices and at homes. However, people tend to avoid purchasing due to the cost involved of the printers and their refills. The price is no justification for the level of convenience printers provide. They get you hard copies in minutes, make projects and presentations easy, and over a lot more other conveniences having a printing process handy.

The best example of modern printing is 3D printing, which can bring your vision into reality in front of your eyes using resins. Here we are talking about printers and yes for the know-how of this fascinating machine we have our guide to help you with basics and all the way to advance and industrial level understanding of these machines.

So, let’s get on and learn what a printer is and various types of printers around you. We are sure that there will be not few but many types and names of printers you never heard or know about them. So, let’s get started.

What is a Printer?

A printer is an output device that prints typically on papers for a hard copy. Printers are often peripheral to computers connected via wire or wirelessly to receive commands. They print text, images, a combination of text and images, and many other things in the modern-day printing process and industrial applications.

There are different types of printers, and due to the expanded use, they are available for personal home use, commercial use that is for office, and industrial use. The most common printers and widely used ones are Inkjet and laser printers for home and office use. They print on paper through inks and laser cartridges.

There are various types of printers in use for different jobs like LED printers and some outdated but still in use like Dot Matrix printers. Apart from Inkjet and laser printers, various printers are used widely for industrial applications, whose results we see every day but tend not to know what they are and how they function. So, let’s discover different types of printers and their applications.

What are the different types of Printers?

As we said earlier, printers are fascinating machines, and here we are with a list and detail on various types of printers and what they do to print. Some printers are for simple jobs, some offer multipurpose use, some are intended for complex and high efficiency, and some get a job done in seconds. They come in different shapes, size, forms, and functionality and we are discussing all of them down below:-

Different types of personal and commercial printers

1. Laser Printers

Laser printers use an electrostatic digital printing method to produce text and graphics on paper and other surfaces. In simple words, it uses a laser to print by charging the photoreceptive drum negatively present in the printer by passing a laser beam. The electrically positive powered powder known as a toner in the printer is then collected by the drum, which transfers it on the paper and eventually prints. 

In simple words, the negatively charged drum collects positively charged toner powder onto the spaces charged by the laser beam according to the print’s information. The printer’s laser offers precision in printing and speed, which results in quality and fast printing.

These printers are simple to use due to no ink involved, and the toner refilling requirement is less frequent as compared to printers with ink. These powder toners are also cheap and easy to replace; again, no ink means no mess. Laser printers were once known for the hefty cost; however, they are now quite affordable due to technological advancements. Straightforwardly these printers are fast, print with precision, and are affordable even for households.

2. Solid Ink Printers

As the name suggests, Solid Ink printers use solid ink for printing. These printers also feature a drum for the process, which transfers the ink onto the paper. Solid Ink printers have solid wax inks stored, which are melted before printing. The molten wax inks are passed onto the drum, which transfers it onto the paper printing graphics, text, images, and others. They do not throw ink directly onto the paper and, in a controlled manner, transfers it onto the drum for the process.

The drum involved in the process offers precision to the printing process by printing the whole page in one go rather than applying colors one by one and one on one. The wax ink used is in the standard format of CMYK and prints vibrant images with wax-like texture onto the paper. These printers are around for a very long time and are still in use and were intended for use in the graphic field for better color production in the prints.

Solid Ink printers offer various advantages like less wastage with no cartridge of ink involved for replacement as solid wax sticks are put into the chamber once empty. Also, these wax are mostly used as they do not dry out like ink cartridges. However, these printers are slow, require heating time to heat the wax, and need time to cool down. Also, they do not print on all papers, and you have limited options for the same.

3. LED Printers

LED printers are new-age printers, just like laser printers, more recent than laser printers; however, they have been around since 1986. The principle of operation of LED printers is similar to a laser printer with LED instead of a laser and fewer moving parts that are a mirror and other alignment tools.

LED printers use a positively charged photoreceptive drum for the process, which collects the toner onto the places, where a strip of LEDs removes the charge. The strip of light-emitting diodes is placed above or below the drum, which charges the drum positively or removes the negative charge at places through light-emitting. The drum then collects toner at the places and transfers it on to the paper.

The paper is also positively charged when it enters the printer to attract the toner, which is negatively charged on the drum. In the end, the paper is passed through two heated rods to complete the printing process by melding the toner with the paper.

These LED printers have a less complicated operation than laser printers and are quieter and compact for the same reason. However, they are less popular and not available like other printers in the market.

4. Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers are the most common printers widely used in offices, households, and also for professional printing. These printers are available in various varieties and price ranges for different customer bases. As the name suggests, an Inkjet printer jets or sprays ink and directly onto the paper for the printing process. These inks are stored in cartridges and are sprayed by tiny nozzles onto the paper, producing texts and images on a non-porous paper.

Inkjet printers are simple to operate and inexpensive, although the ink cartridges need to be replaced after running out or because of drying out. Different types of models use different types of cartridges with CMYK colors that are all colors in one, in a mixture, and also all separate. Also, the ink needs little time to dry on the paper.

Inkjet printers are the best fit for household and semi-professional printing with a resolution printing capacity of up to 600 dpi. However, the downside is their moderate speed, which is not ideal for a job with numerous prints and the frequent need to replace ink cartridges.

5. Multifunction Printers

As the name stands, the multifunction printer offers multiple functionalities for various jobs. They are typically intended to print, scan, photocopy, and fax, offering multiple uses. They are available in many variants, sizes, and combinations of functionalities depending upon the manufacturers.

These multifunction printers are mostly available with laser and inkjet printers along with other functionalities. They are widely used commercially, in offices, and homes with their smaller version with printing and scanning functionality. They are also an idea and practical equipment for office needs.

They are of free-size and are big sizing upto 3 feet tall or more with a bulky build due to multiple functionalities. They are available widely with many options and intended use for home, offices, and also enterprises.

6. Dot Matrix Printers

Dot-matrix printers are the classic printers printing text and images through dots. They are legitly the most senior of all types of office and house printers available in the market and still in use. The printer has a set of pins on its print head, usually between 9 to 24, and strikes down on paper to print. A carbon paper or ink-soaked cloth lies between the print head and the paper, which transfer ink on the paper when the print head strikes down.

They are an inexpensive and obsolete technology that cannot efficiently compete with printers available nowadays. However, they do the job of printing text quite well and relatively cheaper than other printers. Being an impact printer, the resolution of printing is low and very limited with images and colorful images. They also print slowly.

7. 3D Printers

3D printers are a new reality, which we thought of as a future technology fantasy. As the name suggests again, 3D printers print three-dimensional objects and not on paper. They print an object layer by layer of resin, printing what you want it to print. They are the latest and most sensational development in the field of printing, which opens doors to many. They hold the capacity to produce objects just on command and with customization.

Their development is an answer to many custom needs, which can be done via personalization even at homes. They are still in development with technology relatively new, and we hope to see more of them in the future. Also, at homes like other printers, 3D printers will be needed for solutions like decor, tools, DIYs for projects, functional tools, easy fixes, or a whole new thing.

3D printers are expensive right now with the availability of a few affordable options, which are not too technologically advanced. The resin cost is also high, which brings the printing cost high, making them quite an investment.

Different types of Industrial Printing Machines

The result of printing is all around us; however, we are a little less familiar with many printing machines and processes. Apart from the snob printing machines we see in our offices and home, which print for us on papers, there are a lot more, which works in the background and is a lot more astonishing than the ones we discussed earlier.

So, let’s discover some of the printing marvels, printing different things and on various surfaces, which we do not realize.

1. Digital Printers

The fast-evolving printing technology is definitely digital printing, gaining momentum in the printing industry with quality, custom, and cost-effective printing solutions. These digital printers transfer digital images on different surfaces directly by pressing the images on the surface along with the ink. They use no plates or drums to do so.

The printer prints via digital inks and toner in various colors and medium and transfers them directly onto the surfaces. They accept printing commands like images, PDFs, and other digital formats, making personalization and data entry easy. These printers print on almost any surface like paper, fabric, photo paper, synthetics, cardstocks, canvas, ceramics plastics, fibers, and a lot more.

Digital printers are used for small batches or jobs of industrial level and offer personalization. They are fast and also economical. The most common example of personalized digital printing is the personalized printing on t-shirts nowadays.

2. Screen Printers

Screen printing is often heard, but we do not know much about screen printers. Screen printing is a traditional printing technique of transferring ink onto various surfaces, mostly fabric, by spreading ink or colors on the surface via a mesh screen. Mesh is an overlay on the surface, which has design carved or poked out, which transfers it on the surface. Ink is poured or spread via a tool through the surface’s lengths, which passes through the screen’s design or mesh and prints it on the surface.

Today screen printing is done via traditional and modern methods both. There are manual, semi, and fully automatic screens printing presses for the process of holding the screens on surfaces and spreading ink or any other printing medium. The size of the mesh, open mesh apertures, and ink determines the printing outcome, and it is done on various scales.

Screen printing has wide applications and is used to print on different surfaces and sizes. It can be done on fabrics, various textiles, ceramics, wood, metal, plastic, glass, paper, and on other multiple surfaces. Also, the process of screen printing allows the use of the different types of inks, dyes, colors, solvents, and more, enabling wide printing applications and variety. Screen printing allows the use of water, solvent, solvent plastisol, UV curable, and water plastisol for printing.

3. Embossing Machines

Embossing machines are the type of machines used to create embossed text, images, and various surfaces’ textures. They do not technically print but are used in printing processes. They are used to create three-dimensional embossed effects on printed or non-printed surfaces. In embossing, the die of the desired embossing pattern is pressed against the substrate to reflect the raised pattern on the other side, where a sunken die of the same pattern that is hollow is placed beneath. The embossing die is called relief die and die present beneath the surface is called a sunken die.

Embossing is done in many patterns and styles; some notable are blind embossing, foil embossing, die-stamping, and the reverse method of debossing, where a sunken effect is created. Embossing has many industrial applications and is widely used in stationery products and decors like visiting cards, nameplates, number plates, letterheads, and more. Also, embossing can be done on a variety of surfaces like paper, metal, textile, plastic, wood, and more.

4. Letterpress Printing Machines

Letterpress printing machines, as the name suggests is an impression printing, which involves the impression of a raised surface dipped with ink pressed against a sheet of paper or on a roll to print. The raised surface, letter, or images are carved out to print. It is a type of relief printing widely used across various printers in their modern and advanced forms.

Letterpress is the earliest type of printing process used across the world and is still in use in its traditional as well as modern forms. The process of this type of printing may be done by stamping the die on the surface of applying the surface or paper on the die and then peeling it off. The components of the letterpress printing machines mostly include an impression cylinder that is the die, an inking device with inking rollers to ink the cylinder and a form cylinder along with controls through drivers.

These printing presses are available for different types of color printing with varying numbers of colors and also in various sizes and scales. However, typical letterpress printing machines are on the decline because of their modern version and other similar more advanced printing machines like Flexographic, offset printing and other modern lithographic printing machines.

5. Flexographic Printing Machine

Flexographic printing machines are printer printing on porous and non-porous subtracts of any kind. These printers are of substantial size and are made to run long jobs of a massive number of prints and sizes. The printing machine uses a flexible relief plate, a photopolymer printing plate attached to a rotatory anilox roller, which rolls the plate and deposits it on the substrate. Different plates are made of different colors and are rolled with precision over each other to print.

The flexographic machine’s printing process is simple, precise, and efficient with a rotating roller, flexible plate, and laser-controlled ink quantity. However, the process is simple in theory and intricate, requiring precision in reality. In order to print, the photopolymer plated is exposed to form a negative relief image through CTP, which is the computer to plate technology then after it is loaded on the anilox roller and is rolled upon the substrate.

The flexo press’s substrate is often rolled, and bundles loaded in the press and unwind and move below the roller to print. Several inks are used in these printers as per needs and are water-based, solvent-based, or UV cured for broader application. These printers are used to print food packages with food-grade inks, other cardboard packages, and print on various other substrates like paper, cardboard, plastic, cellophane, metals, foils, and more.

Flexographic printing machines are fast, accurate, and cost-effective for long-running jobs. The flexible plate is long-lasting to create millions of prints and can be stored carefully to use the latter, making printing for packages and designs practical and cost-effective. Apart from printing, the significant process of flexographic printing is plate making.

6. Offset Printers

Offset printers are widely used for high volume commercial printing and offer unmatched high-quality and sharper prints. The printers use the classic lithographic printing process along with modern technology to print super fast and vivid quality. The method includes a plate, which has an inked image of the print known as offset. The offset transfers the image on a rubber blanket, and further, the blanket transfers it on the surface to be printed or moreover, rolls it over to the surface.

The process is called offset as ink is not directly transferred on to the paper of other surfaces. The plate requires setup time and a significant cost; however, once set up, the plate can be used for continuous printing bringing down the cost with huge volume printed. The cost of printing gets cheaper, with an increasing number of prints. The prepress setup of offset printing is detailed and requires attention.

The modern offset printers offer color accurate, precise, customized, and cost-effective printing for commercial heavy printing requirements. With two types of printing presses available in offset printing that are wet and waterless, a wide range of inks can be used for desired printing like water-based, dry metallic, special inks, and more. The press also allows the use of different types of papers. These offset printers also come in plate variations along with ink variation for various applications. There is more to offset printing and printers.

7. Thermographic Printers

Thermographic printers use heat to create a raised effect with the printing already done on a paper or surface. The printer first prints on a paper with the help of an offset, generally transferring ink from a plate. Later, the offset’s ink is sprinkled with resin dust and baked, creating a raised effect due to melted resin. The print then turns into an embossed pattern with a shiny and smooth texture.

In the process, the ink used is slow drying, which allows the resin to stick on the print. Also, extra dust is vacuumed in the process, and various types of resins like transparent, glittery, coarse, matte, and more are used for the desired effect. This type of printing and printers are widely used for aesthetically impressive visiting cards, invitation cards, decorative pieces, stationery, and more.

These thermographic printers are a cheaper alternative to embossed printing.

8. Electrostatic Printing Machine

Electrostatic printing machines use electrostatic charge and prints directly on the paper. These printing machines use electrostatic force to form text or images by powder or ink directly on the paper. The process involves no plate or transferring, and the prints are directly printed through the electrostatic charge using powder or ink, as mentioned above. The printer uses a laser beam to form images on the paper to attract powder and ink to print.

In other types of electrostatic printing machines, a stylus is used instead of a laser, and many times a drum is used to transfer the image. The drum is charged instead of the paper, which collects the powder and ink and then transfers it onto the paper. These printers are widely used to print books, and the cost of printing is also inexpensive for the very purpose.

9. Rotogravure Printing Machines

Rotogravure printing machines involve the intaglio printing process. The process consists of a plate of die engraved and etched to fill colors and transfer it to the subtract, which is the exact opposite of relief printing, where carved out raised surface is used to print. Rotogravure printing machines use a carved cylinder, an ink fountain, and a dryer to print directly onto the substrate. Different styles of this machine also use an impression roller, where carved roller transfers print to the impression roller further to transfer it onto the paper or other substrate.

Rotogravure printing machines are famous for fine and sharper images along with a high speed of printing ideal for long-run print jobs of heavy volume. These printers have density range and transfer more ink than other printers making the prints clear. They were once used to print newspapers, currency, magazines, and other such heavy quality commercial printing. With advancement, their use is on the decline; however, they are still preferred for heavy-quality printing like wallpaper, gift wraps, magazines, posters, and more.

10. Pad Printers

Pad printers are industrial printers, which basically transfer or print a 2D image on a 3D object and other subtracts, challenging to print. In simple words, pad printers are used to print on three-dimensional objects. Pad Printers are one sort of offset printers, where the image is transferred from a plate to an object via a silicon pad. The silicon pad allows application or transfer of the image to various surfaces and shapes printing products like toys, automotive, apparels, ceramics, plastics, and more.

Pad printers also allow the use of various inks, dyes, adhesive, and more, which makes these printers multipurpose for other application jobs apart from printing. The printer offers high-quality printing and faster operation for the industrial scale.

The conclusion:-

The world of printing is enormous, and applications of different printers are different from use and needs and also evolving with advancements. They are further classified into various categories and are still many, yes, more than the listed above. It was our generous effort to bring you most about types of printers around you and the products of whom you see in your day to day life, unaware of the machines that print them.

And, we hope that you must be delighted to know about these machines and actually how many of them are in use other than the ones we see in offices and homes. Moreover, we wish you must have enjoyed learning the process of printing each machine uses and which one is ideal for various jobs. So, admire these printing marvels, know more about them, and make most of their use. Also, watch this space to learn more about them in the future along with other such technologies.