What are the different Types of Printers? [Complete Guide]

When you own your own printer, you can simply print anything you need from the comfort of your own home. But it hasn’t always been this way.

At one time, printers were special and could only be accessed through copy shops. Now, they can be in anyone’s home. But what kinds of printers are available on the electronics market for both consumers and businesses?

There are many different types of printers, and each has particular tasks and prints for which they are made.

The Different Types of Printers

Below is a list of many different types of printers that consumers and businesses can use. Each type of printer is not a printer on its own. The types of printers discussed can be characteristics, and a single printer can have several features. For example, a printer can be a single-function inkjet printer which would also be a non-impact printer.

Single-function and Multifunction printers

Out of all the many different types of printers,  there are two categories in which they all fit: the single function and the multifunction printer. As their name suggests, the single function printer only has a single function: printing.

A single-function printer tends to be much less expensive than a multifunction printer because it only performs one job: printing.

The multifunction printer can perform more jobs than just printing. Multifunction printers can have scanning, faxing, copying, and emailing.

If a person needs a printer for their at-home business or for all-in-one you, then they will most likely choose a multifunction printer.

Single Function:

  • Cheaper than most printers
  • Smaller sizes which fit better in a limited office/working space.

Multi-function:

  • Less expensive than buying separate devices
  • Warranty tends to be longer

Impact and Non-impact printers

There’s only one major difference between an impact printer and a non-impact printer. An impact printer is the type of printer that physically presses ink or toner directly onto the sheet of the paper on which it is printing.

Non-impact printers print characters or graphics, not by pressing the ink onto the paper, but by chemicals, lasers, or light to transfer the ink.

Just like there are only single function and multifunction printers, there are also impact and non-impact printers. All printers will fall into one of two categories.

Here are a few examples of impact and non-impact printers:

ImpactNon-impact
Dot Matrix Daisy WheelInkjet Thermal Laser

Impact printers

  • Usually cheaper than non-impact printers
  • Print at faster speeds

Non-impact printers

  • Less likely to break down than impact printers
  • Colors are more vivid
  • Higher quality prints, especially when printing photographs

Dot Matrix/Impact Matrix printer

A dot matrix printer is an extremely limited printer that doesn’t print letters or numbers. It is designed to print on a grid system. These types of printers are not usually used at home, but they are great for businesses.

One reason a business would use a dot matrix printer is if the business needs to print five or six copies of a page at the same time. Order forms, printing labels, shipping orders, and itineraries must be printed with a dot matrix printer, so it is easier for the business to track orders.

A dot matrix printer is an impact printer because the mechanisms inside make direct contact with the paper.

Dot Matrix Printers:

  • Costs much less than most other types of printers
  • Print on multiple papers at once
  • Low cost to repair

Inkjet printer

Ink-based printers have been around since the 1600s. The very first ink printer was the printing press. Commercial enterprises and newspapers in the 1860s embraced massive ink-based printers in their operations, and now we have the inkjet printer.

Inkjet printers use ink to print, but not all ink is made the same. There is dye-based ink, and there is pigmented ink.

In general, inkjet printers are known for their high-quality prints. Inkjet printers are especially used when printing out photographs.

Inkjet Printers

  • Vivid color and high-quality printers
  • Ink is less expensive than toner because of its smaller size.

Daisy Wheel Printers

No longer as popular as they were in the 1970s, daisy wheel printers print by physically stamping ink onto paper using a grid system with specific stamps for letters, numbers, and symbols.

When typing a word, the character being typed is raised and then slammed on the paper so it can leave an impression.

If you have ever used a typewriter, then you have seen daisy wheel printers in action.

Daisy Wheel printers

  • Extremely cheap to replace
  • Can print on heavy paper

Laser printer

A laser printer is a printer that applies toner dye onto paper using a combination of positive and electrical charges.

The toner used is a powder that must be sealed onto paper using a pair of rollers called fuser rollers. These rollers are superheated to at least 200C. The fuser rollers melt the toner onto the paper.

The difference between Laser Printers and inkjet printers is speed and quality, which is reflected in their PPM or pages per minute.

PPM is the amount of black and white prints that a printer can produce without stopping. On average, a laser printer can print 30 to 40 pages for a minute, while inkjet printers can only print 13 to 15 pages per minute.

Laser Printers

  • Prints faster than inkjet printers
  • Toner is cheap to buy and replace

Sublimation printer

If inkjet and laser printers print on paper, then sublimation printers are designed to print on anything but paper. A sublimation printer is a printer that analyzes designs and prints them on different objects.

There is no one sublimation printer; instead, many are designed for that special product that manufacturers and business owners want to sell.

One popular type of sublimated product is clothing with designs on them.

Sublimation printers

  • Print on many surfaces, like glass, fabric, or wood
  • If on fabric, no special washing required
  • Vibrant print quality

3D printers

A 3D printer is a device that allows the user to print objects. Although a 3D printer looks different than a regular inkjet or laser printer, the process is quite similar. Like other printers, 3D printers need material and a design file to print.

Since 3D printers create real-world objects, it can take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours or more to complete.

Instead of a text file or a graphic, a 3D printer needs a 3D design. It does take more skill and more time to learn about 3D designing, but anyone can learn how to do it.

Hobbyists can get into 3D printing with a basic 3D printer which now costs less than $300, which used to be unthinkable.

The most common material used to create 3D objects is ABS, flexible filaments, and PLA, the last being renewable and biodegradable.

3D Printers

  • Print specially made physical objects in a few hours
  • Much cheaper than ten years ago
  • User-friendly modes

Monochrome laser printers

A monochrome laser printer is a type of printer that only uses one pink color to print out the document for a file. These types of princes are used for their speed and can print out more than 50 documents in a minute.

Quality is not really the purpose of a monochrome laser printer. This type of printer is best for home-based and small businesses.

They’re different types of toner available for monochrome laser Printers, but they cannot be used in combination with another color. The user can only load a single toner color into the monochrome printer.

Monochrome Laser Printers

  • Very fast printing speed
  • Ink does not cost much
  • Text comes out dark and vivid

A3 printers

All papers are assigned different sizes, whether we know it or not. A regular customer printer can print on different sizes of paper, not just regular printer paper.

It can also print on letterhead, envelopes, pamphlets, and smaller papers as long as they are sized correctly in the software system.

Most printers are A3 printers, and they can handle multiple sizes of paper. But there are printers that are specially formulated to fit one size of paper. For example, the A4 paper printer is designed to handle papers that are most used in the legal field.

So A4 printers are automatically set to size A4 paper but A3 printers will be automatically sized to regular printer paper.

A3 printers

  • The most common type of printer
  • Can adjust to different sizes
  • Many multifunction options

Conclusion

These are a few of the types of printers that color our world. So the next time you are holding or wearing something with a design, or you have to print out a paper for school or work, and it takes less than a minute, thank a printer!

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