Emails and text messages are convenient ways to communicate, but there are some things that must be written down. That means you’ll need printers, which come in a dizzying array of sizes, models, and capabilities. Printers are sometimes classified as impact or non-impact, though the ones you use in your office are almost always non-impact.

What Is an Impact Printer?
An impact printer needs to physically strike a ribbon against the paper to make a mark, which is where the name comes from. In the early days of the computer era, the best print quality came from so-called daisy-wheel printers, which worked pretty much like a typewriter operated by a superhumanly fast typist. They printed beautifully, but they were slow, lacked graphic capabilities, and were extremely noisy. It wasn’t quite like working in a roomful of jackhammers, but it was close. Many offices also used dot-matrix printers, which formed letters by hammering pins against the paper to make the correct pattern.Although the print quality was lower and they were still noisy, a dot-matrix printer was faster and could print graphics. Line printers were used for high-speed, high-volume printing. These printed a whole line at each strike, and could use either movable type – like a daisy-wheel printer – or a whole line’s worth of pins, like a dot-matrix printer on steroids. These were horrendously noisy too, but did their work in separate printing facilities where you didn’t have to listen to them.

What Is a Non-Impact Printer?
Once you know what an impact printer is, it’s easy to guess that non-impact printers are the opposite. Instead of hammering a letter onto the paper, they use a variety of gentler, quieter technologies. Inkjet printers are somewhat similar to dot-matrix printers, but instead of pins striking a ribbon they form letters with print nozzles that squirt tiny, almost microscopic dots of ink. Laser printers work on much the same technology as photocopiers, using a drum with an electric charge to attract powdered toner to the page, and then a heating unit to fuse it to the paper. Both technologies provide excellent print speed and quality, as well as beautiful graphics and the option of printing in colour.Thermal printers take a different approach. They form the letters using special heat-sensitive paper and controlled temperatures. This means they don’t need ink, ribbons or toner, which makes them great in niche uses like gas pumps or self-serve kiosks where you want to keep maintenance to a minimum.

Printers in Your Office
Non-impact printers, such as inkjets or lasers, are almost always used in and around the office. Inkjet printers can be significantly less expensive to purchase, bordering on disposable, but because of their relatively small ink cartridges, they are best suited for light to moderate use by individual users or small groups. The smallest and lowest-cost laser printers compete in that end of the market as well, while high-volume, high-speed lasers can churn out hundreds of thousands of pages just as quickly as a line printer and look better doing it. When you’re choosing printers for the office, you’ll need to look at your projected usage and the costs of ownership to make an informed decision.

The Buying Decision
It all comes down to how much printing you do and how you distribute your use. Inkjet printers are great for light printing, but their ink cartridges can be costly on a per-page basis. Laser printers get cheaper per page as you move up in print volume, with high-end machines – and their relatively huge toner capacity – costing relatively little. Big machines make the most sense when they’re shared, so if it’s physically feasible to have a single large laser serve multiple departments, that may be a better option than several smaller machines.
Your best bet is to consider how much printing you do, the capacity and cost of each printer’s ink or toner, and then calculate how many you’ll need in a year. This, combined with the purchase price, gives you a good estimate of the cost of ownership for each printer you’re considering, which is a very useful way to choose between them.

Impact Printers Still Have a Place
You’re unlikely to use an impact printer in your office, but they’re not entirely extinct. They still do some things very well, and there are many applications for them. If you need to print multipart forms on carbon or carbonless paper, for example, your carbon paper printer will always be an impact printer. It could be a dot matrix for low-volume forms or a line printer or line matrix for high-volume forms, but the physical impact is required. Impact printers are still used in industrial settings as well, where their physical reliability and tolerance of poor conditions – dust, heat, humidity – mean they’ll outlast any number of laser or inkjet printers.

Another point that might weigh heavily in some businesses is that impact printers are very “green.” Your consumables are fabric ribbons, which have a long life and have a low impact on the environment, and the printers themselves can last for years or even decades with proper maintenance. Inkjet and laser printers, on the other hand, use a lot of ink and toner cartridges and only last a few years. The net environmental impact of an impact printer can be much, much lower.

MPC3503 ( rent & purchase ) (5)
MPC3503 ( rent & purchase ) (6)
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