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What Types of Printers are Available Today?
September 9, 2018
Printer technology has grown by leaps and bounds in the last couple of decades. Printers can do a lot of more complicated jobs than just a few years ago. We’ve gone way beyond simply printing out your standard book report.
With the advent of 3D printing technology for example, the art, construction, automotive, medical, and aerospace industries have seen an explosion of innovation. 3D printing has revolutionized companies’ ability to manufacture parts and materials quickly and efficiently. But if you’re not an astronaut in need of a 3D-printed part for your space station - that’s okay, there’s a printer out there for you, too.
Below, we will touch on the main types of printers and printer technologies to help you narrow your search for the best printer that answers to your specific demands.
Whether you're looking for the right multi-purpose home printer, a high-volume printer for a text-heavy business, or even a metal 3D printer for solving mechanical engineering issues, we’ll review what’s out there so you have all the information you need to make the best choice for you.
Laser printer vs inkjet
When you’re deciding which printer to purchase, the first decision you’ll have to make is what printer technology you want.
Laser printers and inkjet printers are the two main types you’ll see on the market. So, what’s the difference between them?
First, we’ll look at inkjet printers. Inkjet printers run the gamut from basic, single-use document printer, a high-quality photo printer, or an all-in-one copier, scanner, printer.
How inkjet printers work
These printers work by forcing ink through holes in a printhead. They’re capable of producing high-quality photo printouts as well as black and white and color documents. Inkjet printers are considered the best type of printer for blending colors seamlessly in photos, making them a great option for graphics-oriented businesses.
What sorts of inkjet printers are available today? A huge variety - the best type of printer for you depends on what you’ll be using it for, how many people will be using it, and whether it’s for home, business, or enterprise use.
Best uses for an inkjet printer
Printers like the HP DeskJet 3755 All-in-One Printer use inkjet technology for basic home printing like documents or emails. But it can also print out lab-quality photos and features additional scanning and copying capabilities.
Boasting the title of the smallest all-in-one home printer, it’s the perfect addition to a home office with varying needs.
Inkjet printers aren’t just an option for families or those running a mobile office. They’re also for high-end, image-heavy businesses. Business models of inkjet printers tend to have a much higher print speed to keep up with the day-to-day volume of a workplace.
For example, the HP OfficeJet Pro 8740 All-in-One Printer prints up to 24 pages per minute of black and white documents and 20 pages per minute for color. High print speeds married with the ability to print high-quality graphics make it an ideal office workhorse.
Inkjet printers have a cost-efficient start-up price and generally, their ink cartridges are less expensive over time than toner cartridges for laser printers. Inkjets also have the benefit of being able to print on a variety of surfaces like glossy photo paper, fabrics, and stationery.
HP® has also created an entirely new type of inkjet printer called the HP PageWide printer. Instead of a printhead that moves from side to side depositing ink that you see in traditional printers, an HP PageWide printer has a printhead that spans the entire width of the paper.
These HP PageWide printers boast the best-in-class cost of ownership plus best-in-class energy efficiency.
Inkjets are best for:
- Graphics-heavy printing
- Photo printing
- Small to mid-sized businesses
- Home and home office use
Now, let’s turn to the other type of printer: laser printers. The first laser printers were actually constructed from altered photocopiers which use the same kind of technology.
How laser printers work
Laser printers work thanks to the power of static electricity. Yes, the same static electricity that can give you a shock if you walk around in socks on the carpet. The main element in a laser printer is the photoreceptor, which comes in the form of a spinning drum or cylinder that’s positively charged with electricity.
The printer points a laser beam at the drum to create a pattern of static electricity. Specifically, it negatively charges certain areas. Then, thanks to that static electricity, it attracts toner, a powdered ink. The fuser unit then adheres the toner to the paper. And finally, you have your printout.
Generally, laser printers are faster than inkjet printers. If you do high volume printing, especially with text, you’ll notice a definite difference.
Best uses for laser printers
These types of printers are superior at printing small lines and small fonts. If your print jobs are mostly text without a lot of graphics, you might want to consider a laser printer.
HP®’s LaserJet series, for example, offer laser technology capable of serving individual business professionals, small offices, to large corporations with multi-media needs. Again, as with inkjet printers, the best laser printer depends on your specific circumstances.
If you’re looking for an enterprise-capable LaserJet printer, the HP LaserJet Enterprise Flow MFP fleet is the pinnacle of performance and secure printing. Capable of printing up to 75 pages per minute, this business workhorse is designed for more efficient workflows.
But there are also simpler laser printers like the HP LaserJet Pro M102w Printer if you want the benefits of laser printing without the unnecessary bells and whistles. Although it’s smaller in size, this model still features an impressive print speed at 23 pages per minute for black printing.
How to pick the best printer
When deciding what’s best between LaserJet vs. inkjet printer types, it’s important to ask yourself these questions as you think about your printing habits and whether your printer needs to meet the requirements of business or home.
- How many people are going to be printing?
- What volume of printing will I be doing in a day, a week, or a month?
- What will I be printing? Photos? Text? Both?
Multi-function vs print only
The next question to ask yourself is if you need to do anything with your printer besides print. Besides basic black-and-white printing capabilities, there are also multifunction printers that can streamline your workflow or simplify your home office.
For example, some printers that can scan, copy, and fax in addition to printing. Scan files, copy documents, and fax them to the clients or partners across town for an easy, collaborative experience.
Whatever your job - from stay-at-home parent to corporate executive - a multi-function printer can mean hassle-free productivity.
Printers such as the HP LaserJet Pro MFP M130fn, for example, can zoom through print, copy, scan, and fax jobs stacking up in your printer queue. Effortlessly switch between scanning and copying with the easy-to-use menu.
Reliable and budget-friendly, this multi-function printer allows you to send jobs from almost any device: your smartphone, tablet, or PC using Google Cloud Print™ 2.0.
For printing that falls outside the standard home or office ink-on-paper parameters, there are printers designed for specific, unusual needs.
Mobile printers, non-standard paper size and materials, and even 3D printers open a wide array of potential uses, solving problems for both business and personal use.
What’s the HP Sprocket?
Multi-function printers are a great versatile option if you need a printer that can do it all. But what if you’re looking for a single-use printer, maybe one that’s mobile?
HP® has the solution for that quandary that comes in a small, convenient package called the HP Sprocket photo printer.
With the HP Sprocket family, you can print out photos with a printer that slips into a pocket or purse with ease. Maybe you’re at an event and wish you could take a snapshot of the people, setting, or all of the above and print it out - the HP Sprocket Mobile puts that instant printing power directly into your hands.
With all of the digital photo platforms available, pictures are often relegated to the dark corners of the internet. But the HP Sprocket is able to materialize those images immediately. Plus, with the addition of the HP Sprocket App, users have an opportunity to personalize and edit photos with text, emojis, and colors before printing.
The HP Sprocket 2-in-1 Camera Printer combo goes a step further and eliminates the need for another device to take the photo in the first place. Take, edit, and print photos all from one gadget.
With these basic types of printers in mind, let’s take a look at some other specialty printers and new printer technology that is revolutionizing the printing landscape.
Wide format printers
Have you ever seen a decal that spans an entire wall made of one piece of material? That was made with a printer.
Many advertisements and packaging we see in our everyday lives are made with printers that use the same kinds of technology you see in even the humblest of inkjet or laser printers.
If you’re working in an industry with multimedia product demands, you need a specialized printer that can handle bigger projects, including large graphics and posters.
The HP DesignJet series, for example, offers large-format office printers for businesses like architectural firms that need to print out documents like building blueprints.
Or, there’s even larger scale printing apparatuses available like the HP PageWide industrial press for high-volume commercial use such as printing corrugated packaging, as well as large-format signs and displays.
Types of 3D printers
An even more futuristic, specialized printer is one that’s been making waves for its ability to revitalize and change how we manufacture products from medical devices to car parts: 3D printers.
3D printers are the future for many industries that deal with large-scale manufacturing practices.
Not only have they been used to make innovative art projects, they’re also being used by medical research teams for bioprinting and tissue engineering.
Currently, the breakdown of what industries are using 3D printers looks like this:
- 17% consumer goods (athletic shoes and knitwear, for example)
- 17% industrial goods (car parts)
- 13% technology
- 9% services
- 7% medical industry 
HP® has their own line of HP Jet Fusion 3D printers customized for small and medium-size product teams, design firms, and schools.
When these futuristic printers were being built and planned, HP® collaborated with corporations like Nike and Shapeways to create 3D printers that serve multiple industries.
For the first time, HP® has also released plans for the HP Metal Jet for mass production in the industrial sphere. That’s right, a 3D printer that prints out metal! The future is already here.
Find the best type of printer for you
Printers have come a long way from their humble origins and there’s plenty of different technologies to consider when you’re picking a printer. HP printer types span the gamut from single user to industrial presses.
Laser printers work best for high-volume, print heavy offices expected to have high output while inkjet printers give users the opportunity to print high-quality graphics.
There are single-use printers, multi-function printers, mobile all-in-one printers, and printers perfect for both the home and office or business.
Whatever printer you need, make sure that you’re choosing a printer that fits your business or lifestyle. The right printer can enhance your experience as a business professional working from home or revolutionize your workflow as an enterprise.
 3D Printing; What is 3D Printing
About the Author: Michelle Wilson is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Michelle is a content creation specialist writing for a variety of industries, including tech trends and media news.