Printer Definition & Meaning

A printer is a peripheral device that can transfer electronic data from a computer into a hard copy, often as text and graphics on paper or as an object in the case of 3D printers.

History of the printer

The first electronic computer printer, the dot matrix printer, was released in 1968 by Epson. The printer created characters by striking pins against an ink ribbon. Each pin made a dot, and each character was made up of a collection of dots. The next upgrade in printer technology came with the invention of the laser printer by Xerox in 1969, although it wasn t until 1984 that the first laser printer was released to the consumer market. By 1988, the first inkjet printer was released to consumers by HP.

Both inkjet and laser printers are still in use today, but some expect demand for printers to decrease as more and more documents are distributed and viewed electronically.

Types of 2D printers

A two-dimensional printer is most likely the first image that pops into your head when you hear the word printer. As their name suggests, 2D printers work on a flat plane and are known for printing text, graphics, and photos onto a flat surface most often paper.

  • Laser printers use a laser, ink, and a photoreceptor drum to print out a document. The laser beam draws the text to be printed onto the photoreceptor drum. Wherever the laser draws on the drum will have a negative charge, causing the ink to stick. The drum then rolls the ink onto the paper, creating the finished document.
  • Inkjet printers are the most common printer used today. They use hundreds of tiny ink guns to shoot ink onto the page. All characters and images printed are made up of hundreds of dots per square inch. Inkjet printers are deceptively affordable, but the expenses add up when you account for the cost of frequently replacing the ink cartridges.
  • LED printers are similar to laser printers, except that use an LED light instead of a laser to draw onto the drum.
  • Solid Ink printers use solid ink sticks or granules similar to wax to melt them in order to print onto paper. This type of printer can produce excellent images and documents, but some of its drawbacks include waiting for heating/cooling, difficulty writing on documents due to waxy ink, and inability to laminate documents because the wax-based ink will melt.
  • Thermal printers don t require any ink, but print by applying heat to heat-sensitive paper. They are most commonly used to print receipts.
  • Dye-sublimation printers are mostly used for photos and use heat to transfer dye onto paper, plastic, cardstock, or canvas.

Types of 3D printers

A 3D printer can create three-dimensional objects based on CAD models or digital 3D models. Another name for 3D printing is additive manufacturing since the objects printed are created by printing successive layers of the print material on top of each other. After a 3D model is created and is ready to print, the model goes through a process called slicing. This process cuts the model into hundreds or even thousands of cross sections which then become the layers that are printed. Slicing is either done through a slicing program before sending it to the printer, or some printers have a built-in slicer.

Just like the 2D printer, there are many different options and printing methods to choose from when it comes to 3D printing. Below are some of the most common types of 3D printers.

  • Streolithography (SLA)
  • Digital Light Processing (DLP)
  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
  • Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
  • Electronic Beam Melting (SLM)
  • Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)
  • Binder Jetting (BJ)
  • Material Jetting (MJ)

KJ Pace
KJ Pace
KJ Pace writes and coordinates content at TechnologyAdvice in Nashville, TN. When she’s not producing content, she enjoys reading, cooking, and playing with her dogs.

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