You might have heard the words “toner” and “ink” with respect to printers. Both of them are printer cartridges and it’s important to know which one to use for your printer since they are two completely different types. In general, ink is a liquid and is used with an inkjet printer, while laser printers use a powdery substance called “toner”. Sounds simple, right?
Powders Versus Liquids – The Magic Behind the Print
An ink cartridge contains liquid ink that can either be dye-based or pigment-based. The ink is filled in a single unit container (the cartridge) and comes in a variety of colors. The most common colors are black (made using carbon black), yellow, cyan, and magenta. Using these four colors, the device prints all the colors in the spectrum. As a result, they are great at producing high-quality images.
According to PrinterHeadlines.com, Inkjet printers are more frequently used in homes due to their cost efficiency. The ink cartridges that they use contain a small sponge that becomes soaked with liquid ink. When the printer is given the command to print, tiny droplets of ink are squirted onto the paper from equally tiny nozzles in the print head. All the nozzles are controlled by printer software, ensuring that they spray the ink in the pattern of your text or your photograph. Ink does not last forever. Since it is a liquid, it tends to dry out over time, especially if you don’t use your printer frequently. Ink is also very expensive- it costs more than fine vintage champagne and human blood! Insider.com had a great video covering the actual cost, you can watch it below:
Unlike ink, toner is a powdery substance and is used in laser printers. Toner is made by finely grounding polyester, which means it is essentially plastic dust. It bonds with the paper when it is heated using an electrostatic charge. If you own polyester pants, you may be familiar with this since they tend to stick to your legs.
The Printing Process
The printing process in a laser printer is very different from that of an inkjet printer. Laser printers have a rotating drum (also known as a drum unit). When the command to print is given, the document is projected onto the drum and an electrostatic template is created.
Now, the toner is dispensed onto the drum and sticks to the places where the electric charge is altered. The toner prints the given text or image into the paper using heat. The heat is essentially melting the polyester powder on the paper and fusing it in place.
Some toner cartridges come with a built-in drum. These tend to be more expensive because you don’t have to worry about replacing the drum. Others come with separate drum units.
Since toner is a powder, it doesn’t dry out. So, it has a long shelf life. It also allows for faster printing. However, colored laser printers tend to have high upfront costs.
How Do the Two Compare?
|Dries out, expires, or gets clogged due to infrequent use
|Doesn’t dry out, expire, or get clogged
|Inkjet printers cost less
|Laser printers are costly
|Runs out of ink more frequently
|Toner lasts longer, and gives a higher page yield than ink
|More suitable for homes or small business that don’t print large volumes every day
|More suitable for businesses that print in large volumes
|Prints a little more slowly than toner
|Prints more quickly than ink