Even though the IT world is becoming more and more advanced with an ever-increasing number of services moving online, one thing is sure – no matter how popular data clouds and online billing get, there will always be a need present for real-life paper documents.
Now, unless you plan to write these documents by hand using a pen and a piece of paper, you’re going to need some special contraption that can create these templates and documents for you.
We’re talking about types of printers.
Ever since they were invented, printers were immediately recognized as a massively useful piece of technology that you can create to print out documents, books, notebooks, and even checks that banks will officially recognize – in the comfort of your home or office.
Considering how widely used and how important printers are for both education and the professional world, so to speak, it’s no wonder that printer manufacturers are going out of their way to create more and more advanced models which can print more for less money and also do it quickly.
In this article, we will present to you ten of the most popular types of printers you can find in use nowadays. Although some of the models on this list may be using slightly obsolete technology, they’re still pretty much relevant since many people worldwide are still using them daily.
In the passages below, we’ll describe how each of these types of printers works and what are the most important features to pay attention to in case you’re interested in buying one of these useful office and home appliances.
Without further ado, here’s the deal.
Types of Printers
1) Daisy-Wheel Printer
Representing an old example of printing technology dating from the 1970s, daisy wheel printers are a types of printers that pretty much ‘imitates’ the way typewriters imprint letters and symbols on a piece of paper.
Of course, as you have probably figured out already, this types of printers can only print letters and symbols, as its design prevents it from printing graphics, patterns, or pictures. As for the working principle of this types of printers, the principle is very similar to a regular typewriter. There are different letters and symbols arranged in a circle at the end of a slim ‘arm.’ When one of these symbols needs to beimprinted on a piece of paper, this arm stamps it on it, which then leaves an ink mark.
These printers are called daisy-wheel printers because this circle with letters and symbols attached to it resembles a daisy flower. Here are some of the most prominent features of these types of printers:
- Low-maintenance design – While daisy-wheel printers may look somewhat primitive and simplistic compared to some of the modern-day models, one of the perks that come with their simplicity would certainly be the fact that they don’t require any maintenance other than adding more ink when it’s used up.
- Low-cost operation – Pretty much the only running costs of a daisy-wheel type of printer would be the printing ink, which is not that expensive, to begin with. Also, since they don’t print pictures or graphics, the ink you put in this type of printer will last you much longer than the case is with modern-day ink cartridges.
- Supports a variety of paper grades – … which means it’s not limited to just one type of specific paper that you can use for printing. The great thing about this is that you can use even heavier and more robust types of paper for printing, where you wouldn’t be able to do so with a conventional laser printer, for example.
- Carbon copies option available – In case you need more copies of the same document, or just need a backup copy in case you lose the original or it gets otherwise compromised, so to speak, a daisy-wheel printer can be a great option as it allows you to make carbon copies of the original document.
- No maintenance (other than changing the ink)
- The ink lasts longer
- You can use different kinds of paper (not just one specific type of paper)
- Offers a better quality of print than a dot-matrix printer
- Low costs of operation (you only need to buy the ink and it lasts longer)
- A limited number of characters and symbols
- You can’t print images or graphics using this printer
2) Line Printer
As their name suggests, line printers are machines that print lines rather than individual characters on paper. This types of printers is typically used in banks or science labs where data lines need to be printed quickly in a continuous fashion, so to speak.
You may have seen this types of printers in action in movies where a report is being printed in a science lab or a similar environment. Compared to dot-matrix printers, line printers can print entire lines of text, while the dot-matrix ones print one character at a time. This means that line printers are quite a bit faster than their dot-matrix counterparts, making them a perfect choice for a work environment where lines of text need to be printed quickly.
Some modern-day variations of the line printer can print up to 3,000 lines of text per minute. Here are some of their most prominent features:
- Continuous paper feed – One of the biggest advantages of line printers that are often used in various industries (banks, science labs, and so on) is that they can print continuously. Typically, a large roll of paper is fed into a line printer, so that it can print lines of text quickly and uninterruptedly for extended periods.
- Fast printing pace – The reason these types of printers are used in the industries we mentioned above is that they can produce printed text continuously – and quickly, too. The speed of printing is important if the people operating the printer need a continuous feed of information that is displayed on paper.
- Low-cost printing – The main goal of a line printer is to print out texts at a high pace. That said, the high quality of print and being able to print complex images and graphics is not important for this type of printer. This is why the costs of using a line printer are typically considerably lower compared to some of the other types of printers that can print images, for example.
- A high-printing speed of up to 3,000 lines per minute (if you’re using a modern-day line printer)
- Low cost of operation
- Enables you to print one large continuous roll of paper
- Great for banks, science labs, and other institutions with the need for printing data in a fast and continuously
- Durable and long-lasting
- Tend to be pretty noisy
- Cannot print graphics or images
- The print quality tends to be fairly low
3) Dot-Matrix Printer
To explain how a dot-matrix printer works, it’s the easiest to imagine a common old-timey typewriter. Then instead of the letters and symbols attached to the ‘hammer,’ or that arm-looking thingy, the characters are imprinted by using many needles that punch the ink to form different shapes.
The rest of the printing system is pretty much the same as with any typewriter. There is a ribbon with ink that stands between the needles and the paper. Once the needles punch the paper, they imprint the ink on the ribbon into it. As the printing process goes on, these small dots are combined to represent various letters and other symbols.
One of the most important differences between a dot-matrix printer and a daisy-wheel printer, for example, would be the fact that these printers can print pretty much any shape and not just a preset number of symbols and letters. (Of course, every print will still look like a combination of dots on paper.)
Here are some of the most important features of dot-matrix printers:
- Fairly inexpensive – Dot matrix printers represents one of the oldest types of printer that is still available on the market. While its functions are fairly limited considering the modern-day requirements, this also means that you can get one for a low sum of money, so to speak.
- Low maintenance costs – Since the only part of this printer that needs to be sometimes changed would be the ribbon with the ink on it, you won’t have to spend a lot of money to keep this thing up and running. Also, since this type of printing doesn’t use that much ink, those ribbon changes are likely to be few and far between. (Unless you’re using the printer frequently, of course.)
- Ribbon fades slowly – When the ribbon on a dot-matrix printer starts running out of ink, this won’t happen suddenly as the case is with modern-day laser printers that use ink cartridges, for example. Rather, this will happen slowly, so you don’t need to worry about being surprised by suddenly running out of ink in the middle of an important print.
- Low-cost maintenance
- Pretty inexpensive
- Continuous print
- This type of printer can make carbon copies
- They can be used in rough conditions (such as in a workshop or an industrial setting)
- The limited scope of printing capabilities
- Not great for printing graphics or images
- Fairly noisy
- The pins that are used to imprint the dots can bend sometimes
4) Chain Printers
As you could already see from the working principles of the printers we’ve already described above, many early models of printers used technology that is fairly similar to typewriters, with a few modifications, of course.
Chain printers follow roughly the similar logic of operation, so to speak.
There is a chain onto which many different characters and symbols are printed. As the chain rotates, these characters ‘meet’ the paper, and if a certain character is needed, the hammer corresponding to the spot on the paper where the symbol needs to be will press that same symbol on the chain and so imprint it on the paper. This is the similarity that a chain printer shares with a typewriter.
Here are some more features of a chain printer:
- Ribbon-type cartridge – Just as the case is with typewriters, chain printers also get their ink from a special ribbon-shaped cartridge. These cartridges can then be changed when they run out of ink. Typically, these ribbons tend to last longer than ink cartridges that are used in some of the modern types of typewriters. This is both because these only have one color and because chain printers are used to only print characters and letters rather than images.
- Easy font changes – Even though this chain mechanism is fairly primitive when compared to some of the modern-day printing technologies, back in the day it was quite popular because it allowed simple and easy chain changes. This meant that you can easily introduce new fonts and characters by changing the chain, without having to buy a new printer.
- Fast printing speed – Chain printers work based on a rather simple mechanism, which means that they can print out the text you want fairly quickly. Of course, this speed isn’t necessarily as high as some of the more modern models, but when they were first introduced, they were quite popular for their speed and ease of use.
- Easy chain changes (you can have chains for different fonts and even different languages)
- Fast printing speed
- Low ink consumption
- Easy ribbon change (the ribbon is the ‘cartridge’ in these printers)
- This type of printer can only print symbols and characters, so no graphics or images
- They tend to be quite noisy
5) Drum Printers
If you’ve ever seen one of those old-timey Japanese typewriters, you may have some idea of what these drum printers look like on the inside. Also, their working principle is pretty much self-explanatory.
On the other hand, in case you haven’t, the idea behind a drum printer is that the characters that can be imprinted on paper are engraved onto a drum. As this drum rotates, the characters needed are printed on the page by a hammer that slams them against the paper.
While this mechanism does work well, it does have its limitations. The set of characters you have on the drum, for example, is limited, which means that you can get another set that easily unless you want to buy an entirely new drum, which is typically the most expensive part of the printer.
Here are some of the other features of these types of printers:
- High speed of printing – Since all the characters are arranged on a big drum, the drum doesn’t need to rotate that quickly for these characters to be printed. Also, since there is a separate hammer for every line, the printing process is much quicker than with some of the models we’ve described above.
- Low ink consumption – As is the case with pretty much any printer that uses a ribbon as opposed to a toner, the overall ink consumption tends to be lower than the case is with modern-day printers.
- More precise than its counterparts from that era – Thanks to the simple mechanism of a large drum with few moving parts (only the hammers are susceptible to wear ‘n’ tear, really), drum printers tend to offer a more precise arrangement of characters on paper, as well as slightly higher quality than its counterparts of the era.
- Few moving parts mean a more reliable working mechanism
- Precise printing results
- High-speed printing
- Simple working mechanism
- The drum has a limited set of characters that cannot be changed (unless you buy an entirely new drum)
- This type of printer cannot print photos or graphics
6) Band Printer
We already talked about a close relative of the chain printer above, and band printers use pretty much the same technology. The only difference would be that, instead of a chain, there is a band.
The different characters and symbols that can be imprinted on paper are all engraved on this band. Now, as far as the printing process is concerned, the computer sends the signal to the band printer, which starts moving this band around the paper. Next, the characters that need to be imprinted on the paper are pushed into it by a series of hammers.
Of course, as the case was with the models we described above, there is a ribbon with ink behind the paper. So, when a hammer hits the band to produce a certain character, the paper will be pressed onto the ribbon, which will imprint the ink on the paper that’s in the shape of the character.
Down below are some of the other features of this type of printer:
- Continuous paper feed – Band printers are typically used with a continuous paper feed, which means that they don’t need to print only one paper at a time. This is quite useful for institutions that need a continuous visual representation of data such as science labs or banks, for example.
- Simple ribbon cartridge – As far as changing the cartridge with band printers is concerned, you don’t need to worry about expensive refills, as ribbon-type cartridges are fairly inexpensive. Also, since they only use one color, they will probably last you longer than typical modern-day multi-colored ink cartridges. (Although this depends on how often you use the printer, of course.)
- Excellent durability properties – Since they have a fairly simple working mechanism with not many moving parts that can break, band printers can be used in tough working environments such as in heavy industry halls, or next to big machines, for example.
- Easy ribbon (cartridge) changes
- The cartridge typically lasts longer than that of modern-day printers
- Durable design
- Can be used with a continuous paper feed
- The set of characters on the band is fixed and cannot be changed
- Band printers tend to be fairly noisy
- These types of printers cannot be used to print graphics or images
7) Laser-Jet Printer
Representing one of the more popular versions of printers you can find on the market nowadays, laserjet printers are a variant of printers that uses a laser and a bunch of mirrors to make powdered ink stick to the paper.
The biggest difference between laserjet printers and some of the models you’ve seen above would be that the toner on these printers comes in the form of powder rather than ink or some other sort of liquid.
Here are some of the most prominent features of this type of printer:
- Fast printing speed – … represents possibly the best feature of these contraptions. The reason behind this is that laserjet printers don’t need to imprint characters or symbols one at a time, but can do so in bulk, so to speak.
- High print quality – Laserjet printers use toners of different colors. These colors are then mixed during the printing process to create a multitude of other ones. So, you can easily print out a color image using a laser-jet printer.
- Low-noise operation – Another major difference between modern-day printers, in general, and the laser-jet printers would certainly be the levels of noise they let out. Thanks to the technology these printers use, there aren’t too many mechanical moving parts inside them, so these printers won’t make that much noise while in operation.
- Fast printing speeds
- Capable of printing multicolored images
- A great option for schools and office environments
- High image quality
- Low level of noises (thanks to the absence of heavy mechanical parts)
- These types of printers can be fairly expensive
- The cartridges tend to be expensive to replace (and you need to replace them fairly often, too, although this depends on how often you’re using the printer)
8) Ink-Jet Printers
Moving on from some of the old pieces of technology, we have another breed of printers that use jets to create texts or images on a piece of paper. The logic behind these printers is that they have a canister of ink, which they then spray onto the piece of paper that you’ve placed in the printer’s paper tray.
The main difference between these types of printers and the model from above we described already would be that ink-jet printers use ink instead of toner in powder shape.
Here are some other features of this type of printer:
- Cost-effectiveness – In terms of the availability of ink toners, they can be easily found both online and offline pretty much anywhere in the world nowadays. This means that you won’t have to pay an arm and a leg to buy new ink toners when you need to.
- High-quality images – When it comes to the quality of the printed texts and images using this printer, you can rest assured that the quality will be great. This is especially important if you tend to print out a lot of images and graphics, where the quality of the colors can truly come under the spotlight, so to speak.
- Multi-colored printing – One of the most important advantages of modern-day printing technologies would certainly be the fact that you can make colored prints. This gives you more possibilities to choose the colors of the fonts you’re making, as well as print out images of higher quality if it’s images that you’re specifically printing out.
- Readily available cartridges
- Low cost of operation
- Low noise levels during printing
- Excellent image quality
- Multicolored prints
- Short heat-up time (the printer doesn’t take long to heat up and be ready for use)
- Ink-based cartridges can smudge and stain when exposed to sunlight
- Inkjet printers typically feature more complex builds than their laser-jet counterparts, for example
9) Thermal Printer
In the world of printers, thermal printers hold a special place because their working principle differs from the other printers quite considerably. The way these contraptions work is by heating a special piece of paper. The ink is contained on a special ribbon with color on it.
The ink is imprinted on the paper when the heating element stamps the needed text or images onto the paper. The disadvantage of this type of paper is that it cannot print colors that well, so don’t get your hopes up if you want to print colors.
Here are some of the other features you can expect to find with thermal printers:
- Compact size – Typically, thermal printers aren’t as big as their inkjet and laser-jet counterparts. (Of course, it depends on what sort of thermal printer you’re using, but most of them tend to be fairly small.) That said if you need to print out barcodes or some similar simple graphics, using this type of printer would probably be more than enough for your needs.
- Excellent connectivity – Some of the modern-day printers allow you to easily connect them with your PC. You can do this by using an ethernet cable, Wi-Fi, or with a special interface cable.
- Low maintenance build – Since thermal printers use a pretty simple printing technology, with very few moving parts, you won’t have to worry about having to spend much time or money on maintenance.
- Easy ribbon replacements (especially since these ribbons are filled with monochromatic ink)
- Thermal printers typically take up less space than inkjet printers, for example
- The ribbon (cartridge) lasts longer than with ordinary printers
- Low maintenance
- The paper for these printers needs to be a special sort of paper and it’s more expensive than just regular paper
- The prints can fade over time, especially if exposed to sunlight or heat
10) Plotter Printer
Plotters are a special sort of printer that was designed to create high-quality vector images. This is important because vector images can be easily scaled up and down, so you don’t need to worry about different resolutions and other parameters.
As long as you’ve got a paper that will be large enough to fit in the plotter, you can rest assured that this contraption will be able to print whatever image you want onto it.
There are several subtypes of plotter: pen plotters, impact plotters, as well as non-impact plotters. Here are some more features of these contraptions in more detail:
- Huge printout sizes – One of the things plotters are well-known for would certainly be the fact that these contraptions can create prints of large dimensions. Since regular printers can’t do this, plotters are typically used by civil engineers for making those large schematics sheets.
- High print quality – Since quality is one of the most important parameters of printing for all sorts of purposes, plotter printers are typical ‘the weapon of choice’ for professional printers used by engineers, technicians, and artists.
- Different material prints – Other than paper, which is the most common printing material, so to speak, plotters can also be used to print on other materials such as cardboard, plastic, aluminum, sheet steel, as well as some other ones.
- Excellent print quality
- Can work with large resolutions
- You can use plotters to print on large pieces of paper
- Different materials can be used with plotters
- Plotters tend to be expensive and take up a lot of space
- They take a lot of time to print (because of the size of the paper and the quality of the resulting print)
Frequently Asked Questions:
1) How do I choose my printer?
When it comes to choosing the best printer for your needs, the best thing to do would be to read a list of different models of printers (such as the one we’ve prepared above) and then determine what sort of printer would be the most useful for your needs.
Once you’ve determined that, you can pick a model that would fit your budget.
For example, if you’re a casual user that only needs to print a couple of sheets of paper for a school project now and then, getting an inkjet or laser-jet printer can be a great option for you.
2) What printer is the most popular for printing pictures?
Typically, high-end multi-colored printers represent possibly the best option for anyone who wants to print high-quality images in the comfort of their home.
Many models from such companies as Canon or Epson offer excellent printing quality and plenty of extra features that can come in useful, too.
3) How do you perform maintenance on a printer?
While this would depend from model to model, here are some of the general tips for making sure your printer runs like clockwork:
- Use it more frequently (prevents the ink from drying up, if your printer uses ink),
- Clean the printer head often (if you have an inkjet printer),
- Make sure the printer and its inner parts are dust-free,
- Use the latest updates and software available for your type and model of printer,
- Replace cartridges carefully. (Or, have this done professionally.)
4) What printer type is best?
The type of printer that may be useful depends on what sort of printing needs you have, so to speak.
If, for example, you simply want a printer that can print bar codes, using a thermal printer can be a great option. If, on the other hand, you are an architect and you need a printer that you can use to print out large building plans and drawings – using a plotter would be the way to go.
Printers come in all shapes and sizes, and they use a wide array of different technologies to do their magic. Ever since they were invented, the technological advances used to power these contraptions have been getting more and more inventive and ingenious. So, bottom line, we hope you found this article informative and that you’ve managed to recognize the optimal types of printer for your needs.