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multifunction printer A computer printer is a device that allows you to convert your soft copy — that copy seen on your computer — into a hard copy on a piece of paper or transparency film.  Whether you are looking for a computer printer for home use or are planning to print out hundreds of pages per day at your business, there is a computer printer that will suit your needs.

Ink-jet Printers

Ink-jet printers form their characters and graphics by spraying bursts of ink onto paper.  Documents can be printed in both black-and-white and color, and on a variety of papers including ink-jet paper, photo paper, glossy paper, or banner paper.  Ink-jet printers are a common choice for home computers or for businesses that have minimal printing needs, because of their minimal cost.

One of the things that determines an ink-jet printer's quality is its resolution, which is measured in dots per inch, or DPI.  Printers with higher DPI ratings print clearer and sharper images, and are generally more expensive.  Most ink-jet printers range from 300 to 2400 DPI.  Ink-jet printers generally are able to print between three and 19 pages per minute.

Photo Printers

photo printer cartridges A photo printer can print photo lab-quality pictures in a variety of sizes.  Some photo printers that use ink-jet technology can also be used to print other types of documents, making them a good companion to people who want to have only one type of printer attached to their computers.  These types of printers can print directly from the computer.  Other photo printers have a built-in card slot that allows digital photos to be printed directly from a media card.

Laser Printers

laser printer A laser printer is a high-speed, high-quality printer that is generally used in situations where frequent output of high-resolution documents is necessary.  Laser printers shine powerful laser light beams onto their printing drums to produce high resolution hard copy images.  Instead of wet ink, laser printers use dry, powdered toner to create their images.  In 1984, Hewlett-Packard introduced the first laser printer that featured convenient toner cartridges, and today, printer manufacturers offer both black-and-white and color laser printer models.  Laser printers generally have a DPI rating of 600 to 2400, and can print between nine and 30 pages per minute.  Some extremely high-quality laser printers used in the office can print up to 150 pages per minute.  Laser printers are significantly more expensive than ink-jet printers.

A Black-and-White Printer Prints Several Pages of a Document

Thermal Printers

Thermal printers generate copy by pushing electrically heated pins against heat-sensitive paper.  One positive aspect of thermal printers is that they are very inexpensive.  However, their print quality is also low compared to that of other printers, and the images on the paper are subject to fading over time.

Portable Printers

Portable printers are designed to connect to a laptop or other mobile computer, and they allow the user to print while traveling.  These printers are small enough to fit into a briefcase; most of them use ink-jet or thermal printing technologies.  They can be attached to a computer via a USB port or a wireless interface.

Large-format Printers and Plotters

Plotters and large-format printers are computer peripherals that are used by graphic designers, architects, engineers, and artists who need to print images on large paper.  These types of printers are commonly used to produce blueprints, maps, and circuit drawings.
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Computer Printers - Digital Printing Technology Guide