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Laser Vs Inkjet Printer: Which is better?

Laser Vs Inkjet Printer: Which is better?

If you're buying a printer, either for work or for home, one of the choices you're likely to be faced is whether to get an inkjet printer or a laser printer. Inkjet printers use liquid ink sprayed through microscopic nozzles onto the paper, and laser printers use a toner cartridge (filled with fine powder) and a heated fuser.

Each technology has its own strengths and weaknesses. The two types use different approaches and each is appropriate for meeting different printing needs.

Initial costs

If you're looking for a budget multi function printer -- which will include the ability to photocopy and scan images as well as print -- there's not much difference in price between inkjets like the Canon PIXMA MX350 and lasers like the Dell 1133. One distinct difference between these two models, however, is that only the inkjet model can print colour pages budget laser printers are only capable of producing black-and-white documents.

Its important to remember budget inkjet printers generally come with 'starter' cartridges, which don't have a full ink tank. This means you'll need to refill them after fewer prints.

Ongoing costs

As you continue to use your new printer over a period of time, you'll need to keep it supplied with appropriate consumables like paper and ink or toner. The ongoing running costs of printers are generally quoted in cents per A4 page. You can calculate this by dividing the number of pages an ink or toner cartridge can produce (this figure is provided by the manufacturer) by the price of the cartridge. This doesn't include the cost of paper though (but this won't change depending on the type of printers).

Generally inkjet printers have a price per page of around 20 cents, although this includes both black and colour cartridges — if you intend to print only black, ongoing print costs are generally 7-8 cents per page. Cheap black-and-white laser printers have a price of around 6c per page on average. If you spend more on a laser printer, the cost per page generally drops quickly.

Larger laser printers have additional ongoing costs when compared to inkjets: they often require an additional fuser cartridge or the replacement of parts with a maintenance kit.

Print speed and text print quality

When it comes to printing black and white text pages, laser printing is unbeatable. Even in low-end cheaper monochrome laser printers you can expect print speeds of up to 20 pages per minute. Inkjets are significantly slower, with budget printers rarely printing more than 6 pages per minute of black text.

For normal print sizes (of around 12pt and larger) text printing quality is similar between both laser and inkjet printing platforms. However, if your printing needs include printing small fonts then lasers are normally superior to inkjets, as the fusing technology better lends itself to the minute curves and dots of small text.

Colour printing and colour print quality

If you want to print colour — whether it's a full-page colour photograph or simply a pie chart — you'll almost certainly be better off with an inkjet printer. Colour laser printers are often bulky and quite expensive and generally aren't suited to home or small office use.

Even when comparing a colour laser printer to a colour inkjet, the inkjet is likely produce better colour images. Inkjet printers are able to reproduce subtle colour gradation in images where laser printers will display banding (distinct changes in colour saturation).

Size

Size is an important consideration for some users. If you're looking for something to fit into a small space on or underneath your desk, it's hard to go past an inkjet printer. However, if you don't need scanning or copying a single-function laser printer may be small enough to suit your needs.

Conclusion

If you're buying based on price — and most consumers are — the choice between a laser printer and an inkjet is simple. If you can afford to pay a little more upfront and if you'll only be printing black text documents, a laser printer is a convenient solution. Inkjet printers are far more versatile, which is important for home use, but you'll pay more in ongoing running costs and will have slower print times. Choose carefully!

 

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Innovation in 3D printing

Innovation in 3D printing

Wandering the brightly lit halls of the 3D Systems’ plant in Rock Hill, South Carolina, I gaze upon objects strange and wondrous. A fully functioning guitar made of nylon. A phalanx of mandibles studded with atrocious-looking teeth. The skeleton of a whale. A five-color, full-scale prototype of a high-heeled shoe. Toy robots. And what appears to be the face of a human fetus. “That was made from an ultrasound image,” Cathy Lewis, the company’s chief marketing officer, tells me, shrugging.

This collection of objects shares one feature: All were “printed” by machines that, following instructions from digital files, join together layer upon layer of material—whether metals, ceramics or plastics—until the object’s distinctive shape is realized. The process is called 3-D printing (or additive manufacturing, in industrial parlance) and if you haven’t heard of it by now, you haven’t been paying enough attention to scores of breathless news stories and technology blogs—or to President Barack Obama, who declared in his most recent State of the Union address that 3-D printing “has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost anything.”

While many people only now are hearing about the technology, engineers and designers have been using large and expensive 3-D printers for nearly three decades, making rapid prototypes of parts for aerospace, defense and automotive companies. Over the years, however, digital design software has matured, scanners have become ubiquitous and affordable desktop printers have come within reach of self-starting entrepreneurs, schools and home tinkerers. Technologists boisterously proclaim that 3-D printing will democratize design and free us from the he­gemony of mass manufacturing.

But just because anybody’s ideas can take shape doesn’t necessarily mean they should—a notion that struck me in 3D Systems’ lobby,

where I saw shelf after shelf of what some people try very hard not to describe as cheap plastic crap: brightly colored miniature vases, phone cases, jewelry, dolls and, inevitably, skulls. (On just one 3-D file-sharing site, I found 101 designs for skull rings and pendants.) The creator of these lobby tchotchkes? The Cube, manufactured by 3D Systems.

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Top 10 things to know when buying a printer

Top 10 things to know when buying a printer

1. Monochrome or colour?

Your first criteria is your basic need: ask yourself what types of documents you will be printing to determine the type of printer that will suit you best. If you only want the ability to print, and if you will only be printing things such as invoices or other monochrome documents, then all you’ll need is a monochrome laser printer. Go for a colour laser printer if you will also have a need to print colour documents on a regular basis.

2. Types of functions

If you have a need for scanning documents, making copies, sending and receiving faxes, then you will need to consider a multifunction laser printer that can perform all of these tasks. Furthermore, you may want to look into other types of functions such as printing from USB sticks (file support can vary, so check the specs), scanning to USB sticks and network locations, and perhaps the ability to print and scan using Cloud-based apps.

3. Paper handling

Commonly, printers will handle paper up to the A4 size, so you will have to look for a specific model if you want to be able to also print documents on A3-sized paper. Things such as envelopes and heavier paper can be printed if the printer has a multi-purpose tray, and you will need to check the printer’s specifications to see exactly the weight of the paper that it can handle (in gsm), as well as the number of envelopes that can be loaded.

For a busy office, having enough paper in the printer at all times is a necessity. No one ever wants to be one to have to fill up the trays, so the best you can hope for is for the tray to not require regular filling. Look for a printer that has an appropriate capacity for the number of users who will be printing (many office printers come with a standard tray of 250 sheets). Also, look for a printer that can be expanded via a second or third tray to satisfy growing needs.

At the same time, look for other paper handling characteristics that may concern you. This can include the ability of the printer to print on both sides of the page automatically (via a built-in duplex unit), and also the ability to scan or copy multi-page documents via an automatic document feeder (ADF).

4. Connectivity

USB is standard on all printers, but for an office environment, the key type of connectivity you should look for is Ethernet. This will allow you to plug the printer in to your network router and share it among the workers in your office. The printer’s driver will need to be installed on all the computers in the network that will require access.

Look for wireless connectivity (usually up to 802.11n specification) if you would like to set up the printer on your wireless network instead. Furthermore, look for Wi-Fi Direct capability if you would like to give mobile devices a way to communicate with the printer directly and print via an app. This can work with NFC functionality on some printers, allowing the direct connection to be set up by placing the device on the printer to pair it.

Ensure that the printer supports all the devices that will require access in your office, be they Apple devices, Android devices, or even Windows Phone.

Printing from Cloud services is also supported in many printers these days. Check up on the services that a printer supports, which could make it easier to print from places such as Google Docs, Dropbox, OneDrive, and other online services, without having to go through a computer or mobile device. Brother is one vendor that includes these types of services on its entire range of colour laser printers.

5. Ease of use

You’re probably used to the touchscreen on your phone, tablet, or perhaps even laptop. So why not go for touchscreen on a printer? A touchscreen can make it easier to navigate a printer’s menu system, especially if it has built-in access to apps that require the user to punch in their login details.

Ease of use can also encompass the swiftness with which the paper tray can be accessed and loaded, and the way in which the toner cartridges can be changed.

6. Toner cost and TCO

The initial cost of a laser printer may be very low these days for some models, but it’s the overall total cost of ownership that you need to be aware of.

This includes things such as the cost of replacement toner (for each colour), the yield of the toner (how many pages it can print), and the cost of any other consumables that are associated with the printer, such as a fuser (the unit that fixes the toner to the paper) or drum unit (which transfers the toner onto the paper). Many laser printers only have the one consumable these days, which is the toner.

You should also consider if a printer can take XL or super-high yield cartridges, which can offer a better overall cost per print and a longer duration before the toner needs to be replenished. Examples of printers with super-high yield cartridges include the Brother MFC-L9550CDW, which offers running costs of 3.2 cents per monochrome print, and 12.7 cents per colour print.

 

7. Noise emissions and power consumption

Noise emissions can be a hard one to evaluate unless you see the printer in action at a showroom or retailer with a low noise floor, but it’s something that you must be mindful of, especially when purchasing a big printer.

The noise when the printer’s engine starts up and churns through a print can be significant. Some printer manufacturers (Brother is one of them) list a noise level (in decibels) for different models, which you can use as a guide to figure out how loud it will be when set up in your environment. For example, the Brother HL-L2300D has a noise level of 49dB or less when printing.

Power usage should also be a consideration. In particular, you should look for a printer that has a deep sleep mode, and also assess how much power the printer uses when it’s actively printing. Look for a model that is Energy Star compliant.

8. Duty cycle

The duty cycle is the number of prints that the printer is rated as being able to print on a monthly basis. It’s a rating that should be looked at if you will be doing a large volume of printing on a regular basis. This rating can be anything from 1000-5000 pages, all the way up to tens of thousands.

 

9. Processor and memory

While it’s not easy to compare processors between laser printers, the quoted speed in megahertz can give a good indication of the power the printer has to process jobs and run its inbuilt functions.

Furthermore, the memory capacity (and a printer with upgradeable memory) is key if you will be printing from graphics and design applications, especially when using PCL or PostScript languages for printing, for which space is needed to store the print information as it is converted. 

10. Overall size and ease of installation

A typical printer for an office can be bulky and perhaps difficult to move around without the help of another person. Consider the size of the printer in your purchase and where you will be installing it in your environment. You may end up wanting to look for a more compact printer that better suits your office space while still providing similar functionality. Furthermore, you might want to assess how easy it is to install its toner cartridges and load its paper, as this can help minimise maintenance time.

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