Part of the Hardware glossary:

An inkjet printer is a computer peripheral that produces hard copy by spraying ink onto paper. A typical inkjet printer can produce copy with a resolution of at least 300 dots per inch ( dpi ). Some inkjet printers can make full color hard copies at 600 dpi or more. Many models include other devices such as a scanner , photocopier , and dedicated fax machine along with the printer in a single box.

In the inkjet printing mechanism, the print head has several tiny nozzles, also called jets. As the paper moves past the print head, the nozzles spray ink onto it, forming the characters and images. An inkjet printer can produce from 100 to several hundred pages, depending on the nature of the hard copy, before the ink cartridges must be replaced. There is usually one black ink cartridge and one so-called color cartridge containing ink in primary pigments (cyan, magenta, and yellow). Some inkjet printers use a single cartridge with cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink. A few models require separate cartridges for each primary pigment, along with a black ink cartridge.

The principal advantage of inkjet printers is the fact that most of them are inexpensive. Inkjet printers are often given away at computer superstores along with the purchase of a personal computer or substantial peripheral. Even the cheapest inkjet printers are satisfactory for most of the needs of personal computer users. High-end inkjet printers can render digital images on special paper, with quality rivaling that of professionally produced glossy or matte photographs. Another advantage of inkjet printers is their light weight and modest desktop footprint . Many models are easy to transport, and are preferred by traveling salespeople for this reason alone.

The copy from an inkjet printer needs a little time to dry. Adequate drying time is especially important if the hard copy contains large regions of solid black or color. Inkjet printers also require non-porous paper. In bond paper containing cotton or other fibers, the ink may bleed along the fibers. Paper designed especially for inkjet printers is heavier than the paper used with laser printer s or photocopiers (24 pound vs 20 pound), has higher brilliance (it's "whiter"), and is somewhat more expensive. Another limitation is the fact that most inkjet printers are slow and they are not designed for high-volume print jobs. While the initial cash outlay for an inkjet printer may be modest (or zero), this type of printer is expensive to operate over time compared with a laser printer. When it is necessary to make hundreds of copies per day or thousands of copies per week, an office quality laser printer is a better choice.

This was last updated in May 2010
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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