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Printing Processes

Part Three: Inkjet Tech Analysis

Thermal Inkjet vs. Piezoelectric Inkjet

The Thermal Inkjet technology allows for cheaper production of print heads, but due to the fact that they must heat up to print, they wear out sooner than Piezoelectric print heads. Because they are cheaper and prone to wear, Thermal Inkjet print heads are normally integrated into the ink cartridge and get replaced with each change of the print cartridge (i.e. Hewlett Packard, Lexmark, and Primera).

Piezoelectric print heads offer better control of droplet size but they are more expensive and therefore included as a permanent part of the printer (i.e. Epson). Because the Piezoelectric print heads stay inside the printer, the replacement ink cartridges tend to be cheaper because they are only tanks full of ink. Also, individual ink colors can be changed, this is important because if you only run out of one color you need only replace the color you need, not the entire set.

Like any technology there are some pros and cons of each, some things that one Process does better than the other. The three major aspects to look at are: initial cost, consumable cost, and product quality.

The Break Down

Inkjet Thermal
Thermal Piezoelectric Direct Transfer Re-Transfer
Initial Cost Low Lowest High Highest
Consumable cost Higher High Lowest Fixed
Special Media Req'd Yes Yes No Yes
Print Quality Excellent Excellent Excellent Best
Image type Photo Photo Text & simple graphics Photo
Colors Full color Full color Monochrome Full color