Inkjet printing is a type of computer printing that recreates a digital image by propelling droplets of ink onto paper and plastic substrates. Inkjet printers are the most commonly used type of printer,and range from small inexpensive consumer models to expensive professional machines.
The concept of inkjet printing originated in the 20th century, and the technology was first extensively developed in the early 1950s. Starting in the late 1970s, inkjet printers that could reproduce digital images generated by computers were developed, mainly by Epson, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Canon. In the worldwide consumer market, four manufacturers account for the majority of inkjet printer sales: Canon, HP, Epson and Brother.
The emerging ink jet material deposition market also uses inkjet technologies, typically printheads using piezoelectric crystals, to deposit materials directly on substrates.
The technology has been extended and the ‘ink’ can now also comprise solder paste in PCB assembly, or living cells, for creating biosensors and for tissue engineering.
Advantages of Inkjets
Compared to earlier consumer-oriented color printers, inkjet printers have a number of advantages. They are quieter in operation than impact dot matrix or daisywheel printers. They can print finer, smoother details through higher resolution. Consumer inkjet printers with photographic-quality printing are widely available.
In comparison to technologies like thermal wax, dye sublimation, and laser printing, inkjets have the advantage of practically no warm up time, and often lower cost per page. However, low-cost laser printers can have lower per-page costs, at least for black-and-white printing, and possibly for color.
For some inkjet printers, monochrome ink sets are available either from the printer manufacturer or from third-party suppliers. These allow the inkjet printer to compete with the silver-based photographic papers traditionally used in black-and-white photography, and provide the same range of tones: neutral, “warm” or “cold”. When switching between full-color and monochrome ink sets, it is necessary to flush out the old ink from the print head with a cleaning cartridge. Special software or at least a modified device driver are usually required, to deal with the different color mapping.
Some types of industrial inkjet printers are now capable of printing at very high speeds, in wide formats, or for a variety of industrial applications ranging from signage, textiles, ceramics and 3-D printing into biomedical applications and conductive circuitry. Leading companies and innovators in hardware include HP, Epson, Canon, Konica Minolta, FujiFilm, EFi, Durst, Brother, Roland, Mimaki, Mutoh and many others worldwide.