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The ABCs of printer inks

Marco Tabini, | May 26, 2011
When buying a printer, the choice of ink technology often dictates the ultimate capabilities of your device. Here's a handy guide to the most common ink-transfer systems, how they work, and what they are best suited for.



Toner is the ink of laser printers; typically, it is made by bonding a pigment to a polymer to create a fine powder with particular electrical properties.

Inside the printer, a laser beam “paints” the image to be rendered on a drum, loading it with an electrostatic charge. The drum then rotates over the toner reservoir, picking up particles of ink that are later transferred to paper and melted in place.

Toner is excellent in terms of durability and quality, especially for applications like printing text and line art. Once it’s fused to the paper, it doesn’t fade or come off easily. It doesn’t fare as well for photographs, however, where inkjet printers provide finer resolution and, therefore, better output.


A printer for every purpose

One interesting facet of the printer market is that many specialized ink technologies are becoming much more affordable to consumers and general businesses. That makes owning several specialized printers a much less crazy idea than it once was.

Still, not everybody has the budget or patience (not to mention desk space) to deal with multiple printing devices. In that case, the ideal approach is to find the printer that best fits the typical print job that you have to do most often. For the odd job that doesn’t fit your overall technology choice, you can always consult a local specialist or go online.


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