Although there are different methods of getting the ink to the paper, often selected, or designed by a particular manufacturer, for most purposes the principle is the same. The ink is stored in small tanks. These may be four individual tanks, or cartridges, one for each color, or one Black tank and a second tank holding the three colors Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. This latter method can be more expensive in use, as if, say, the Magenta runs out before the other colors, you still need to replace all three. The Black tank is normally bigger than the others, as it is commonly used more for text printing.
Replacing these tanks on a regular basis is the cause of the high running cost of inkjet printers. This has led to other manufacturers selling “compatible” cartridges and refills. Naturally the printer manufacturers resent this and threaten dire consequences, such as poor colors, and damage to the printer, voiding the warranty etc. However, judging by the plethora of companies selling these compatibles, the customers seem to be satisfied! One manufacturer even incorporates a device to say you have replaced the cartridge with a “foreign” brand, and prevents printing (to protect your investment).
The other main part which will need replacing after some use (or misuse with incorrect paper) is the print head. These can be very expensive to replace, comparable to the cost of a new printer.
Inkjets can be used in specialized versions, such as photo printers and large format or A3 printers.
Photo printers often have extra color inks to give a more accurate rendering of, for example skin tones, inkjets are the preferred printer for image reproduction. They do not suit double sided printing, though this can be handled
Large format printers may be used also as photo printers, typically they are used to print graphs, diagrams and flowcharts, among other uses they can print on canvas.
Initially very expensive, and notorious for getting toner everywhere, especially on that white shirt or dress (tip, wash in COLD water, hot water fuses the toner to the material), laser printers have always been selected for their ability to produce high quality text. The early models required regular replacement of OPC cartridge as well as the toner cartridge. Other items such as corona wires were also replaced at different intervals to keep the quality high. These days these items are all replaced in one unit in most models, and you can wear your white shirt again. The print quality is excellent, and permanent, being fused onto the paper. Two sided printing is incorporated in many models, having overcome initial teething problems with complicated paper feed paths.
Color lasers are readily available, too, and at prices affordable by the home user. Of course four sets of toner etc are necessary for four color printing, but the image produced can be just as good on poor quality paper. The resolution is not as suited to quality photo printing as the inkjet printer, but for printing large blocks of color, such as a graphic chart, or an advertising “box-shot” they are ideal. Especially in the wide format, typically A3 printers, also available.
Maintenance costs, especially for high print runs is much better than the inkjet models. Once again, toner cartridges are available from “compatible” manufacturers. Some of these simply refill your old cartridge, which can cause problems, as they are designed for single use. A poorly refilled toner cartridge can cause problems to appear to be caused by other components. Make sure you have a good warranty with these!
In part 3 we look at other types of printer for the SOHO user.