Solid Ink Vs. Laser Printers
By Milton Kazmeyer
Selecting a new printer can be a difficult process. There are a number of different technologies to consider, each with their advantages and disadvantages. Laser printers are renowned for being fast and efficient and are one of the most common types of printers on the market. However, solid ink printers offer some unique advantages over other types of printing methods and may be a better choice for your needs.
Laser printers use toner, a dry pigment that comes in the form of a powder. Manufacturers generally package this in plastic cartridges for containment purposes, as toner spills can be messy and hazardous if you accidentally breathe in the powder. Solid ink, on the other hand, comes in the form of non-toxic wax sticks you simply slot into the appropriate tray on the printer, a method that produces considerably less waste.
If you are looking for a fast printer, the laser printer wins out handily. Inside the printer, a scanning laser or powerful LED light charges a spinning drum with the image of the page, and the drum then attracts toner particles in that image. When the paper passes through, the drum fuses the toner to the surface of the paper, resulting in a quick image transfer. Solid ink printers use a heated print head to melt pigment suspended in wax and deposit it on the drum and must make multiple passes for complex images and graphics. Solid ink printers also require a warm-up period as the print head rises to the proper temperature to melt the wax.
Since solid ink printers use liquid wax as a printing medium, they require some care when handling or servicing the device. At operating temperatures, the print head can cause burns and contains a reservoir of liquid wax, so you should always let the machine cool down completely before moving or servicing it. Failing to do so can lead to a wax spill inside the mechanism, which may damage the printer and require a thorough cleaning. In addition, a loss of power while the printer is active may cause wax to congeal inside the print head, requiring the printer to go through a purging and cleaning cycle before the next print job. A laser printer, on the other hand, can handle rapid duty cycling and shorter cool-down times with no fear of internal contamination as long as the toner cartridge remains intact.
Costs and Efficiency
Solid ink printers are generally more expensive than laser models, although aggressive pricing of solid ink supplies has reduced the cost per page enough to make them competitive over the long term. Since the wax blocks are considerably smaller and easier to handle than toner cartridges, changing out or adding new pigment is easier with solid ink. In addition, some models feature oversized ink trays, allowing you to go longer between reloads than laser printers, further increasing their efficiency advantage.
Milton Kazmeyer has worked in the insurance, financial and manufacturing fields and also served as a federal contractor. He began his writing career in 2007 and now works full-time as a writer and transcriptionist. His primary fields of expertise include computers, astronomy, alternative energy sources and the environment.