Printer Ink

Tech Market Brief

Introduction

Printing dates back thousands of years to the dawn of human civilization. Its earliest inception, originating in Mesopotamia, was the use of stamps to create duplicate images on wet clay. Over the years, printing technology has advanced exponentially and has the potential to continue doing so in the future. Here we discuss a few of the most popular types of printers available on the market today.

Laser Printers

Technology:

Laser printers have a non-impact printing process. As the name suggests, they use a highly focused laser beam passed through a system of lenses and mirrors, which rotate the beam back and forth over a negatively charged drum or photoconductor. Electrons exposed to the beam's light become charged and fall away, leaving a precise projection of the image to be printed on the cylindrical drum. The negative electrons remaining on the drum attract particles of powdered toner. The rotating drum then transfers the image onto paper. The process is finished by passing the paper through intense heat, fusing the toner, and the image, onto the paper.

Compare and Contrast:

Laser printers are the most popular choice for business offices. They're fast, precise, and have the processing power to handle multiple workloads. While the printer itself may be more expensive than an inkjet, laser printers are more cost effective in the long run. The toner cartridges they use are less expensive and last longer than liquid ink. And because the toner is a dry powder, there's less chance of spoilage due to long periods of inactivity, unlike liquid ink which dries out. Toner also won't smudge or bleed in the way some liquid ink will, because it's baked into the paper.

Market Share:

Laser printers currently hold a dominant share of the printer market, but its market has been declining at a rapid pace, more so than any other sector. Because of projected advancement in the inkjet market and continual decline in the overall printer market, laser printers are expected to soon be surpassed. Of the sectors within the laser market, HP holds the largest share of the market, with Canon coming in second - having surpassed Brother in recent years.

Laser Market Pie Chart

Inkjet Printers

Technology:

Inkjet printers create images by spraying extremely small droplets of liquid ink onto paper or other materials. This is a non-impact process. The ink drops are propelled by a series of nozzles which move back and forth across the paper as it's fed through the machine.

Compare and Contrast:

Inkjet Priniters are the most common type of printers used in households. They're suited for personal printing and smaller volumes. Inkjet printers are relatively affordable, but they require expensive liquid ink. This makes them more appropriate for personal use; the smaller print volume ensures that the printer's benefits aren't outweighted by the cost of ink added up in the long run. Inkjet printers are also much slower than other printers, which would be problematic in an office environment.

Market Share:

Overall the printer market is declining, including inkjet printers. However, inkjets are declining at a lesser rate compared to other segments - several inkjet sectors are even showing significant market growth. Because of increasing interest in inkjet technology development and broadening inkjet application, the inkjet market is forecasted to continue growing annually. As always, HP holds the #1 share position for inkjets, with Canon trailing behind at #2.

Inkjet Market Pie Chart

Dye-Sublimation Printers

Technology:

Substrate printing, another non-impact process, uses intense heat and pressure to transfer dye onto materials at the molecular level. Solid dyes are embedded in ribbons of transparent film within the machine. The print material and the film for a specific color are passed under a thermal printing head together. The heat causes the dye from the film to vaporize and transfer onto the print material. The vaporized dye permeates the surface of the material and becomes permanently embedded at the molecular level before returning to solid form. This process is repeated with other films for different colors until the image is complete.

Compare and Contrast:

Dye-sublimation printers produce high quality, natural looking images thanks to continuous-tone technology. Sublimation can create extremely precise details and gentle gradients, even around the edges of a single pixel. And because the dye permeates the surface of the material it's printed on, the resulting image is resistant to fading and distortion. Comparatively, most inkjet printers - which lay down individual drops of ink, distinguishable upon close inspection - produce much lower resolution images which can smear or be rubbed away.

Market Share:

The majority of dye-sublimation printers are used for industrial and commercial printing, with the garment segment holding the largest share and only a small fraction of the market going to households. This is unlike inkjet and laser printers, which are mainly marketed for personal and enterprise use. However, because of decreased prices, more people are beginning to choose dye-sublimation printers over inkjet or laser. Thanks to digital printing technology and the development of larger presses to meet demand, the dye-sublimation market has been following a positive growth trend and is expected to continue growing in all sectors.

Dye-Sublimation Market Pie Chart

Digital Press Printers

Technology:

There is a great deal of debate on what exactly constitutes a digital press. The general consensus seems to be that any machine capable of high speed, high volume, short run printing of digital input can be considered a digital press. Digital printing can utilize the same technology found in inkjet and laser printers, as well as dye-substrate technology, or even the offset process of regular presses. Many machines also come with sophisticated internal bindery capabilities included.