Learn more about ink and toner

Ink and toner, as we know both go into and out of printers, but they have different functions. Although modern printing technology is faster and cheaper these days, it is not always obvious which type of printer is best for specific jobs. That’s why they say, make the wrong choice, and you could blow hundreds of extra cash on printer consumables particularly per year — namely ink or toner. Ink is used in inkjet printers. It is basically a liquid tinted with pigments or dyes. Toner, on the other hand, is a fine powder that is used in laser printers. Both inkjet and laser printers are used for office, home as well as commercial printing purposes, such as creating prints taken with a digital camera or pages of text. The difference comes to the way they apply material to a piece of paper. Inkjet printers jet tiny droplets of ink through tiny nozzles and onto paper. You can imagine the nozzles as tiny water sprays, all turning on and off thousands of times per second. Sophisticated printer software controls all of the nozzles, shooting ink in precise patterns that make up, say, a picture of your cat lounging on your sofa. There are two primary categories of inkjet ink: dye-based, or pigment-based. Dye-based inks consist of pigments that are dissolved in a liquid. Pigmented inks, on the other hand, use ultra-fine powder that is suspended in liquid. If you want to know exactly what is in these inks, good luck to you. Laser printing technology on the other hand is not quite as straightforward mainly because toner does not adhere to paper the way that a liquid-based ink does. Toner is made up mostly of finely ground polyester, which is a type of plastic. Like your jeans sticking to your legs, polyester powder can hold a static charge that grabs onto anything with an opposite charge. In these printers, a laser creates an electrostatic template of your desired images on a rotating metal drum, which has an electrical charge. A cartridge dispenses toner onto the drum, where the laser alters the drum’s electrical charge. Eventually, the printer also charges the sheets of paper as they pass through the machine. As the sheet curls past the drum, it pulls off the charged toner in exact shapes that make up text and images. Inkjet printers require ink cartridges, usually one each for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. You can replace individual cartridges as the colors are depleted. In deed, most laser printers, particularly inexpensive models, print only in black. Once the black toner cartridge runs out, you install a new one. Pricier laser units do print in color and require separate toner cartridges for various hues. It is also worth remembering that although toner is always initially more expensive than ink, the cartridges last longer than ink. But then again volume may dictate the cost-effectiveness of your choice in printer. If you print only a few hundred pages per year for example, an inkjet is fine.

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