There are 5 main types of printers:-
Dot Matrix – These usually come in either 9 or 24 pin. Not used a great deal now except for invoicing systems etc. These now tend to be quite expensive. Not very good at graphics due to the low resolution and tend to quite slow. Popularly available in black and tri colour.
Golf Ball – So called because they use a golf ball print head which hold all the available characters. Very rarely seen now as they could only print set characters in a set font. Usually can only print single colour.
Inkjet – These are the most popular printers now because the better ones can print near photo quality photographs and print on all types of media such as cd’s and dvd’s.They are also for the majority very cheap. These can usually print the full spectrum of colour’s.
Thermal – Most fax machines used to use thermal printing technology but have mostly now been replaced with inkjet. These printers require special heat sensitive paper in order to produce a document which is quiet expensive. Tend to be used for specialist applications. Documents also have a limited storage lifetime.
LED/Laser – These printers use toner (Plastic pellets) which are melted onto the paper using a heated roller. Usually quite expensive to buy but much cheaper than inkjet’s to run. I.e. Cheaper per page. They are also usually quite fast so this is the type used in most offices. These are available in single colour (black) or full colour. These are similar to photocopiers apart from the image is burned onto a light sensitive drum by laser/LED rather than a light reflected from a document. Due to the low cost and wide availability of colour laser printers these are now the most popular for anything apart from home use.
Solid Ink – These are also known as phase-change printers and use a thermal transfer principal. The ink is melted and then fed to a printhead for spraying on to an oil coated drum which then transfers it to paper. Excellent for printing on transparencies and other non-porous materials. Xerox are the sole manufacturer of this type of printer. They are usually expensive to buy and have a high energy consumption but generat less waste and a low cost of ownership.
Dye-sublimination – Uses heat to transfer a dye to to print medium such as plastic. card, paper or canvas. Originally used solely in high end print/camera shops they are now available for home use as dedicated photo printers.
Popular printer manufactures include HP, Toshiba, Xerox, Epson and Okidata.