How Do Inkjet Printers Work?

By: James Kara Murat

Given the advances that technology has been making over the last thirty years or so it is amazing that the Inkjet printer is just now becoming a "ho-hum" sort of item. The inkjet printer has been around since the early 1980's but needed a few fine tuning advances to make it more affordable to the average user. Since that time in the 1990's, when the advances necessary for mass marketing were found, inkjet cartridges have become the norm. But the question of how inkjet printers actually work, and is it a good thing remains. Of course the answers to these questions are yes, no and maybe.

Two choices

The basic concept behind the inkjet printer lies in the concepts of how printers work. Right at the "ya...so"level we find an answer of; a printer puts printer ink onto a piece of paper or other material. In our case we are talking about getting ink from ink cartridges onto paper in a finely defined color.

Thermal bubble - This first choice came largely from the bubble jet era and works by generating a certain amount of heat in the printer ink cartridges. The heat causes a bubble to form which eventually collapses as the printer ink is forced through a nozzle due to the bubble formation. The collapse of the bubble then causes more printer ink to enter for the same process to begin again.

Piezoelectric - There is a significantly smaller penetration of this method due to patent rights but the general concept is the same if you are able to connect heat and vibration as thermal equivalents. In this method the printer ink is ejected by vibrating crystals within the jet nozzle as electricity is passed through the crystals. As the crystals vibrate they cause the printer ink to be ejected and replaced by more printer ink. In this particular method there are many more nozzles than in the thermal bubble method so image quality is significantly better. Unfortunately, with the rights issue in place this quality is in limited release which makes the thermal bubble method more preferred.

Costs

The costs of inkjet ink cartridges can, unfortunately, be rather high. In this case the user must look to the cost of the unit if there is to be any noticeable difference in Inkjet cartridges bought. Lower cost machines do have a tendency to have lower cost ink cartridges but quality of the copy is poor. Looking in the other direction, higher cost printers will give you high quality prints but ends up costing you more than the printer in ink cartridges over time.

How inkjet printers work and the quality/cost issues appear to have penetrated the average consumers psyche in the first years of the 21st century. Using an analogy for Americans it is sort of like buying a Chevy (car), You know what you are getting, it is basic and it will last. For an item that has essentially become a commodity this is not such a bad thing. Until the next advance is made, this has been about 30 years in coming.

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