For small business owners with an eye on growth, there are two sides to hardware procurement. On the one hand, new hardware can stimulate growth. On the other, buying more equipment than you need is inefficient.
This is as true with computers and network infrastructure as it is for everyday office supplies. Equipment and supplies sitting around the office unused do not contribute to daily profit-generating processes.
However, when it comes to print equipment, the issue looms large. Small business owners have a clear incentive to purchase the right-sized printer, with the right set of features for improving business processes, without overspending on features and options they don’t need.
To do this, small business owners need to familiarize themselves with the many options the print industry offers. First and foremost, among these options, are the types of printers available on the market and what differences their features make.
4 Types of Printers Explained
For the majority of businesses and personal users, there are four types of printers that stand out. Each one has a specific use case, producing value in situations where the others struggle. Understanding these benefits and drawbacks within that context is key to making the best decision.
1. Laser Printers
Laser printers create high-quality texts and images quickly and efficiently. These are a standard fixture of commercial environments that regularly need high-volume prints carried out with high speed. This type of printer uses a selenium-coated cylindrical drum to push laser toner onto paper and then etch the toner into the paper using lasers. The result is a crisp, clear image that takes very little time to print.
A laser toner cartridge can produce around 5,000 pages before requiring replacement. However, laser printers tend to handle black and white images better than color. Those with color features tend to cost more, due to the added complexity of making color toner stick to the paper in a cost-effective way. Additionally, this type of printer can be challenging to repair and maintain over time.
2. Inkjet Printers
Inkjet printers work the way most people would assume printers work. The process of propelling ink droplets onto paper seems simple in theory but is very complex in practice. The average inkjet printer has thousands of microscopic ink nozzles on its printer head. It carefully deposits thousands of ink droplets per second onto the paper. More expensive inkjet printers have more nozzles and operate more precisely.
While this type of printer has lower upfront costs than laser printers and handles color better, inkjet cartridges run out faster than laser toner cartridges do. However, inkjet nozzles can clog quite easily, and ink can dry out if left unused for too long.
3. Dot Matrix Printers
Whenever you get a receipt after a retail purchase, a dot matrix printer is usually the device that creates the document. Dot matrix printers operate like a typewriter, pushing an ink-soaked ribbon against the paper in the shape of characters.
The primary benefit that this type of printer has over inkjet and laser printers is a rock-bottom cost per page. There is no clarity of the image to speak of, and dot matrix printers cannot produce color, but when you need simple documents created at minimal cost, investing in a more expensive device just isn’t economical.
Paradoxically, these printers can cost more upfront than laser or inkjet printers. However, overall cost-savings over time usually more than make up for the initial investment.
4. Photo Printers
Photo printers use sublimation to maximize precision and color output. These are the printers that create glossy, high-quality photos ideal for portraits, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia.
While inkjet printers can create high-quality images, they do so by reproducing images pixel-by-pixel. Sublimation photo printers avoid noticeable pixilation by dying the paper itself.
These printers offer maximum image quality but tend to be expensive. Glossy, photo-quality paper is, and replacement parts also tend to come at a high price. As a result, sublimation printers are only recommended for use cases when small businesses need real photo-quality prints, such as luxury marketing materials.
Print Options for Small Businesses
All four major types of printers come in a variety of sizes and formats, from small desktop devices to huge, production presses suitable for the highest-volume projects. Small business owners need to pay close attention to their expected print volumes in order to choose the right type of printer to maximize near-term value.
Additionally, modern printers come with a broad variety of useful features and finishing options. A multi-function printer can automate many of the processes that employees would typically spend a great deal of time on.
Small businesses looking to invest in print equipment can often obtain the most significant value by investing in managed print services. With managed print, a third-party vendor handles equipment deployment and maintenance for a small monthly fee, making best-in-class print hardware scalable according to real-time needs.
Discover how managed print can transform the efficiency of your business processes. Talk to a print expert today!