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TheGame Boy Pocket Printer, athermal printerreleased as a peripheral for the

This is an example of a wide-carriagedot matrix printer, designed for 14-inch (360mm) wide paper, shown with 8.5-by-14-inch (220mm 360mm) legal paper. Wide carriage printers were often used in the field of businesses, to print accounting records on 11-by-14-inch (280mm 360mm)tractor-feed paper. They were also called 132-column printers.

A video showing aninkjet printerwhile printing a page.

Incomputing, aprinteris aperipheraldevice which makes a persistent human-readable representation of graphics or text on paper.[1]The first computer printer design was a mechanically driven apparatus byCharles Babbagefor hisdifference enginein the 19th century; his mechanical printer design was not built until 2000.[2]The first electronic printer was theEP-101, invented by Japanese companyEpsonand released in 1968.[3][4]The first commercial printers generally used mechanisms fromelectric typewritersandTeletypemachines. The demand for higher speed led to the development of new systems specifically for computer use. In the 1980s weredaisy wheelsystems similar to typewriters,line printersthat produced similar output but at much higher speed, anddot matrixsystems that could mix text and graphics but produced relatively low-quality output. Theplotterwas used for those requiring high quality line art likeblueprints.

The introduction of the low-cost laser printer in 1984 with the firstHP LaserJet, and the addition ofPostScriptin next yearsApple LaserWriter, set off a revolution in printing known asdesktop publishing. Laser printers using PostScript mixed text and graphics, like dot-matrix printers, but at quality levels formerly available only from commercialtypesettingsystems. By 1990, most simple printing tasks like fliers and brochures were now created onpersonal computersand then laser printed; expensiveoffset printingsystems were being dumped as scrap. TheHP Deskjetof 1988 offered the same advantages as laser printer in terms of flexibility, but produced somewhat lower quality output (depending on the paper) from much less expensive mechanisms. Inkjet systems rapidly displaced dot matrix and daisy wheel printers from the market. By the 2000s high-quality printers of this sort had fallen under the $100 price point and became commonplace.

The rapid update ofthrough the 1990s and into the 2000s has largely displaced the need for printing as a means of moving documents, and a wide variety of reliable storage systems means that a physical backup is of little benefit today. Even the desire for printed output for offline reading while on mass transit or aircraft has been displaced bye-book readersandtablet computers. Today, traditional printers are being used more for special purposes, like printing photographs or artwork, and are no longer a must-have peripheral.

Starting around 2010,3D printingbecame an area of intense interest, allowing the creation of physical objects with the same sort of effort as an early laser printer required to produce a brochure. These devices are in their earliest stages of development and have not yet become commonplace.

Personalprinters are primarily designed to support individual users, and may be connected to only a single computer. These printers are designed for low-volume, short-turnaroundprint jobs, requiring minimal setup time to produce a hard copy of a given document. However, they are generally slow devices ranging from 6 to around 25 pages per minute (ppm), and the cost per page is relatively high. However, this is offset by the on-demand convenience. Some printers can print documents stored onmemory cardsor fromdigital camerasandscanners.

Networkedorsharedprinters are designed for high-volume, high-speed printing. They are usually shared by many users on anetworkand can print at speeds of 45 to around 100 ppm.[5]TheXerox 9700could achieve 120 ppm.

Avirtual printeris a piece of computer software whose user interface andAPIresembles that of a printer driver, but which is not connected with a physical computer printer. A virtual printer can be used to create a file which is an image of the data which would be printed, for archival purposes or as input to another program, for example to create aPDFor to transmit to another system or user.

A3D printeris a device for making a three-dimensional object from a 3D model or other electronic data source through additive processes in which successive layers of material (including plastics, metals, food, cement, wood, and other materials) are laid down under computer control. It is called a printer by analogy with an inkjet printer which produces a two-dimensional document by a similar process of depositing a layer of ink on paper.

The choice of print technology has a great effect on the cost of the printer and cost of operation, speed, quality and permanence of documents, and noise. Some printer technologies dont work with certain types of physical media, such ascarbon paperortransparencies.

A second aspect of printer technology that is often forgotten is resistance to alteration: liquidink, such as from an inkjet head or fabric ribbon, becomes absorbed by the paper fibers, so documents printed with liquid ink are more difficult to alter than documents printed with toner or solid inks, which do not penetrate below the paper surface.

Cheques can be printed with liquid ink or on special cheque paper with toner anchorage so that alterations may be detected.[6]The machine-readable lower portion of a cheque must be printed usingMICRtoner or ink. Banks and other clearing houses employ automation equipment that relies on themagnetic fluxfrom these specially printed characters to function properly.

The followingprintingtechnologies are routinely found in modern printers:

Alaser printerrapidly produces high quality text and graphics. As with digitalphotocopiersand multifunction printers (MFPs), laser printers employ axerographicprinting process but differ from analog photocopiers in that the image is produced by the direct scanning of alaserbeam across the printersphotoreceptor.

Another toner-based printer is theLED printerwhich uses an array ofLEDsinstead of alaserto cause toneradhesionto the print drum.

Inkjet printersoperate by propelling variably sized droplets of liquid ink onto almost any sized page. They are the most common type of computer printer used by consumers.

Solid inkprinters, also known as phase-change printers, are a type ofthermal transfer printer. They use solid sticks ofCMYK-coloured ink, similar in consistency to candle wax, which are melted and fed into a piezo crystal operated print-head. The printhead sprays the ink on a rotating, oil coated drum. The paper then passes over the print drum, at which time the image is immediately transferred, or transfixed, to the page. Solid ink printers are most commonly used as colour office printers, and are excellent at printing on transparencies and other non-porous media. Solid ink printers can produce excellent results. Acquisition and operating costs are similar tolaser printers. Drawbacks of the technology include highenergy consumptionand long warm-up times from a cold state. Also, some users complain that the resulting prints are difficult to write on, as the wax tends to repel inks frompens, and are difficult to feed throughautomatic document feeders, but these traits have been significantly reduced in later models. In addition, this type of printer is only available from one manufacturer,Xerox, manufactured as part of theirXerox Phaseroffice printer line. Previously,solid inkprinters were manufactured byTektronix, but Tek sold the printing business to Xerox in 2001.

A dye-sublimation printer (or dye-sub printer) is a printer which employs a printing process that uses heat to transfer dye to a medium such as a plastic card, paper orcanvas. The process is usually to lay one colour at a time using a ribbon that has colour panels. Dye-sub printers are intended primarily for high-quality colour applications, including colour photography; and are less well-suited for text. While once the province of high-end print shops, dye-sublimation printers are now increasingly used as dedicated consumer photo printers.

Thermal printerswork by selectively heating regions of special heat-sensitive paper. Monochrome thermal printers are used in cash registers,ATMsgasoline dispensersand some older inexpensive fax machines. Colours can be achieved with special papers and different temperatures and heating rates for different colours; these coloured sheets are not required in black-and-white output. One example isZink(a portmanteau of zero ink).[7]

The following technologies are either obsolete, or limited to special applications though most were, at one time, in widespread use.

Impact printersrely on a forcible impact to transfer ink to the media. The impact printer uses a print head that either hits the surface of the ink ribbon, pressing the ink ribbon against the paper (similar to the action of atypewriter), or, less commonly, hits the back of the paper, pressing the paper against the ink ribbon (theIBM 1403for example). All but thedot matrix printerrely on the use offully formed characters,letterformsthat represent each of the characters that the printer was capable of printing. In addition, most of these printers were limited to monochrome, or sometimes two-color, printing in a single typeface at one time, althoughboldingandunderliningof text could be done by overstriking, that is, printing two or more impressions either in the same character position or slightly offset. Impact printers varieties include typewriter-derived printers, teletypewriter-derived printers, daisywheel printers, dot matrix printers and line printers. Dot matrix printers remain in common use in businesses where multi-part forms are printed.An overview of impact printing[8]contains a detailed description of many of the technologies used.

Several different computer printers were simply computer-controllable versions of existing electric typewriters. TheFriden FlexowriterandIBM Selectric-basedprinters were the most-common examples. The Flexowriter printed with a conventional typebar mechanism while the Selectric used IBMs well-known golf ball printing mechanism. In either case, the letter form then struck a ribbon which was pressed against the paper, printing one character at a time. The maximum speed of the Selectric printer (the faster of the two) was 15.5 characters per second.

The commonteleprintercould easily be interfaced to the computer and became very popular except for those computers manufactured byIBM. Some models used a typebox that was positioned, in the X- and Y-axes, by a mechanism and the selected letter form was struck by a hammer. Others used a type cylinder in a similar way as the Selectric typewriters used their type ball. In either case, the letter form then struck a ribbon to print the letterform. Most teleprinters operated at ten characters per second although a few achieved 15 CPS.

Daisy wheel printers operate in much the same fashion as atypewriter. A hammer strikes a wheel with petals, the daisy wheel, each petal containing a letter form at its tip. The letter form strikes a ribbon ofink, depositing the ink on the page and thus printing a character. By rotating the daisy wheel, different characters are selected for printing. These printers were also referred to asletter-quality printersbecause they could produce text which was as clear and crisp as a typewriter. The fastest letter-quality printers printed at 30 characters per second.

The termdot matrix printeris used for impact printers that use a matrix of smallpinsto transfer ink to the page.[9]The advantage of dot matrix over other impact printers is that they can producegraphicalimages in addition to text; however the text is generally of poorer quality than impact printers that use letterforms (type).

Dot-matrix printers can be broadly divided into two major classes:

Dot matrix printers can either becharacter-based or line-based (that is, a single horizontal series of pixels across the page), referring to the configuration of the print head.

In the 1970s & 80s, dot matrix printers were one of the more common types of printers used for general use, such as for home and small office use. Such printers normally had either 9 or 24 pins on the print head (early 7 pin printers also existed, which did not printdescenders). There was a period during the early home computer era when a range of printers were manufactured under many brands such as theCommodoreVIC-1525 using theSeikoshaUni-Hammersystem. This used a single solenoid with an oblique striker that would be actuated 7 times for each column of 7 vertical pixels while the head was moving at a constant speed. The angle of the striker would align the dots vertically even though the head had moved one dot spacing in the time. The vertical dot position was controlled by a synchronised longitudinally ribbed platen behind the paper that rotated rapidly with a rib moving vertically seven dot spacings in the time it took to print one pixel column.[10][11]24-pin print heads were able to print at a higher quality and started to offer additional type styles and were marketed asNear Letter Qualityby some vendors. Once the price of inkjet printers dropped to the point where they were competitive with dot matrix printers, dot matrix printers began to fall out of favour for general use.

Some dot matrix printers, such as the NEC P6300, can be upgraded to print in colour. This is achieved through the use of a four-colour ribbon mounted on a mechanism (provided in an upgrade kit that replaces the standard black ribbon mechanism after installation) that raises and lowers the ribbons as needed. Colour graphics are generally printed in four passes at standard resolution, thus slowing down printing considerably. As a result, colour graphics can take up to four times longer to print than standard monochrome graphics, or up to 8-16 times as long at high resolution mode.

Dot matrix printers are still commonly used in low-cost, low-quality applications such ascash registers, or in demanding, very high volume applications likeinvoiceprinting. Impact printing, unlike laser printing, allows the pressure of the print head to be applied to a stack of two or more forms to printmulti-part documentssuch as sales invoices andcredit cardreceipts usingcontinuous stationerywithcarbonless copy paper. Dot-matrix printers were being superseded even as receipt printers after the end of the twentieth century.

Line printers print an entire line of text at a time. Four principal designs exist.

, where a horizontally mounted rotating drum carries the entire character set of the printer repeated in each printable character position. TheIBM 1132printer is an example of a drum printer. Drum printers are also found in adding machines and other numeric printers (POS), the dimensions are compact as only a dozen characters need to be supported.

, where the character set is arranged multiple times around a linked chain or a set of character slugs in a track traveling horizontally past the print line. TheIBM 1403is perhaps the most popular, and comes in both chain and train varieties. The

is a later variant where the characters are embossed on a flexible steel band. The LP27 from Digital Equipment Corporation is a band printer.

, where the character set is attached to a solid bar that moves horizontally along the print line, such as theIBM 1443.

A fourth design, used mainly on very early printers such as the IBM 402, features independent type bars, one for each printable position. Each bar contains the character set to be printed. The bars moves vertically to position the character to be printed in front of the print hammer.

In each case, to print a line, precisely timed hammers strike against the back of the paper at the exact moment that the correct character to be printed is passing in front of the paper. The paper presses forward against a ribbon which then presses against the character form and the impression of the character form is printed onto the paper.

, represent the fifth major design. These printers are a hybrid ofdot matrix printingand line printing. In these printers, a comb of hammers prints a portion of a row of pixels at one time, such as every eighth pixel. By shifting the comb back and forth slightly, the entire pixel row can be printed, continuing the example, in just eight cycles. The paper then advances and the next pixel row is printed. Because far less motion is involved than in a conventional dot matrix printer, these printers are very fast compared to dot matrix printers and are competitive in speed with formed-character line printers while also being able to print dot matrix graphics. ThePrintronixP7000 series of line matrix printers are still manufactured as of 2013.

Line printers are the fastest of all impact printers and are used for bulk printing in large computer centres. A line printer can print at 1100 lines per minute or faster, frequently printing pages more rapidly than many current laser printers. On the other hand, the mechanical components of line printers operat with tight tolerances and require regularpreventive maintenance(PM) to produce top quality print. They are virtually never used withpersonal computersand have now been replaced by high-speedlaser printers. The legacy of line printers lives on in many computeroperating systems, which use the abbreviations lp, lpr, or LPT to refer to printers.

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Liquid ink electrostatic printers use a chemical coated paper, which is charged by the print head according to the image of the document.[15]The paper is passed near a pool of liquid ink with the opposite charge. The charged areas of the paper attract the ink and thus form the image. This process was developed from the process ofelectrostatic copying.[16]Color reproduction is very accurate, and because there is no heating the scale distortion is less than 0.1%. (All laser printers have an accuracy of 1%.)

Worldwide, most survey offices used this printer before color inkjet plotters become popular. Liquid ink electrostatic printers were mostly available in 36 to 54 inches (910 to 1,370mm) width and also 6 color printing. These were also used to print large billboards. It was first introduced by Versatec, which was later bought byXerox3Malso used to make these printers.[17]

Pen-basedplotterswere an alternate printing technology once common in engineering and architectural firms. Pen-based plotters rely on contact with the paper (but not impact, per se) and special purpose pens that are mechanically run over the paper to create text and images. Since the pens output continuous lines, they were able to produce technical drawings of higher resolution than was achievable with dot-matrix technology.[18]Some plotters used roll-fed paper, and therefore had minimal restriction on the size of the output in one dimension. These plotters were capable of producing quite sizable drawings.

A number of other sorts of printers are important for historical reasons, or for special purpose uses:

Barcode printer multiple technologies, including:thermal printinginkjet printing, and

Billboard / sign paint spray printers

Laser etching (product packaging) industrial printers

Most printers other than line printers acceptcontrol charactersor unique character sequences to control various printer functions. These may range from shifting from lower to upper case or from black to red ribbon on typewriter printers to switching fonts and changing character sizes and colors on raster printers. Early printer controls were not standardized, with each manufacturers equipment having its own set. The IBMPersonal Printer Data Stream(PPDS) became a commonly used command set for dot-matrix printers.

Today, most printers accept one or morepage description languages(PDLs). Laser printers with greater processing power frequently offer support for variants of Hewlett-PackardsPrinter Command Language(PCL),PostScriptorXML Paper Specification. Most inkjet devices support manufacturer proprietary PDLs such asESC/P. The diversity in mobile platforms have led to various standardization efforts around device PDLs such as thePrinter Working Group(PWGs)PWG Raster.

The speed of early printers was measured in units ofcharacters per minute(cpm) for character printers, orlines per minute(lpm) for line printers. Modern printers are measured inpages per minute(ppm). These measures are used primarily as a marketing tool, and are not as well standardised astoner yields. Usually pages per minute refers to sparse monochrome office documents, rather than dense pictures which usually print much more slowly, especially colour images. Speeds in ppm usually apply toA4 paperin Europe andletterpaper, about 6% shorter, in the United States.

The data received by a printer may be:

Some printers can process all four types of data, others not.

Character printers, such asdaisy wheel printers, can handle only plain text data or rather simple point plots.

Penplotterstypically processvector images. Inkjet based plotters can adequately reproduce all four.

Modern printing technology, such aslaser printersandinkjet printers, can adequately reproduce all four. This is especially true of printers equipped with support for PCL or PostScript, which includes the vast majority of printers produced today.

Today it is possible to print everything (even plain text) by sending ready bitmapped images to the printer. This allows better control over formatting, especially among machines from different vendors. Manyprinter driversdo not use the text mode at all, even if the printer is capable of it.[citation needed]

Amonochromeprinter can only produce animageconsisting of onecolour, usually black. A monochrome printer may also be able to produce various tones of that color, such as agrey-scale. A colour printer can produce images of multiple colours. A photo printer is a colour printer that can produce images that mimic thecolour range(gamut) andresolutionof prints made fromphotographic film. Many can be used on a standalone basis without a computer, using amemory cardorUSBconnector.

The page yield is number of pages that can be printed from atoner cartridgeorink cartridgebefore the cartridge needs to be refilled or replaced. The actual number of pages yielded by a specific cartridge depends on a number of factors.[19]

For a fair comparison, many laser printer manufacturers use theISO/IEC 19752process to measure the toner cartridge yield.[20][21][22]

In order to fairly compare operating expenses of printers with a relatively smallink cartridgeto printers with a larger, more expensivetoner cartridgethat typically holds more toner and so prints more pages before the cartridge needs to be replaced, many people prefer to estimate operating expenses in terms of cost per page (CPP).[20][21][23][24][25]

Often therazor and blades business modelis applied. That is, a company may sell a printer at cost, and make profits on theink cartridge, paper, or some otherreplacement part. This has caused legal disputes regarding the right of companies other than the printer manufacturer to sellcompatibleink cartridges. To protect their business model, several manufacturers invest heavily in developing new cartridge technology and patenting it.[26]

Other manufacturers, in reaction to the challenges from using this business model, choose to make more money on printers and less on the ink, promoting the latter through their advertising campaigns. Finally, this generates two clearly different proposals: cheap printer expensive ink or expensive printer cheap ink. Ultimately, the consumer decision depends on their referenceinterest rateor theirtime preference. From aneconomicsviewpoint, there is a cleartrade-offbetween cost per copy and cost of the printer.[27]

Printer steganography is a type ofsteganography hiding data within data[28] produced by color printers, includingBrotherCanon, Dell,EpsonHP, IBM,Konica MinoltaKyocera, Lanier,LexmarkRicohToshibaandXerox[29]brand color laser printers, where tiny yellow dots are added to each page. The dots are barely visible and contain encoded printer serial numbers, as well as date and time stamps.

More than half of all printers sold at U.S. retail in 2010 were wireless-capable, but nearly three-quarters of consumers who have access to those printers werent taking advantage of the increased access to print from multiple devices according to the new Wireless Printing Study.[30]

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Media related toPrintersat Wikimedia Commons

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