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Home » Printers » What’s The Difference Between Ink and Toner Cartridges?

What’s The Difference Between Ink and Toner Cartridges?

What's the difference between ink and toner

As technology continues to develop, printers get faster and cheaper than ever before.

However, the type of printer you should get isn't always as obvious as people may think. And getting the wrong type of printer can add a lot to your annual expenses when it comes to buying consumables. Specifically, toner and ink.

Ink cartridges are used in inkjet printers. Ink is basically a liquid tinted with dyes or pigments.

On the other hand, toner cartridges are used in laser printers. Toner is a fine powder used to imprint papers.

Toner vs Ink Cartridges - What is The Main Difference?

How The Material Is Applied To A Piece Of Paper

Even though inkjet and laser printers can both be used for commercial and home printing purposes including printing from a digital camera or printing numerous pages of text, the way they apply the material onto the paper is worlds apart.

Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers have a huge number of small nozzles that squirt out the ink in tiny droplets onto the paper. They're like tiny hoses of water turning on and off at high speeds to finish their jobs.

An intricate printing software manages all these nozzles and controls the precise patterns in which they shoot the ink out to form the document, text, or picture that you are printing.

Inkjet ink can be classified into two types: dye-based and pigment-based. Dye-based ink is made up of colorants dissolved in liquid.

On the other hand, pigment-based ink utilizes very fine powder that's suspended in a liquid. Although it's a bit of a difficult task to determine what is in these inks exactly.  That's because printer companies carefully protect their formula as ink cartridges generate huge revenues for these companies.

Laser Printers

On the contrary side, laser printing technology isn't as easy to get to the bottom of. This is due to the fact that toner doesn't adhere to paper the way that ink (which is liquid based) does.

Toner is made up of a type of plastic called polyester which is finely ground. The polyester powder has the ability to hold a static charge that adheres strongly to anything that has an opposite charge.

In laser printers, a laser produces an electrostatic template of the image or text that you want to print on a rotating real drum that carries an electrical charge.

The toner cartridge, then, deposits toner onto the drum, but the toner only sticks to specific places -the ones where the laser alters the drum's electrical charge.

To fit with this, the printer charges the sheets of paper as well. This happens when they're passing through the machine.

The sheets pull off the charges toner in the specific shapes that form the images or text as they curl past the drum.

After that, a hot fused melts the polyester particles in place to make sharp prints with no smudging.

Cartridges and Colors

Typically, inkjet printers use separate ink cartridges such as cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.

This allows you to replace individual cartridges as the ink in them runs out. On the other hand, laser printers (especially on the more budget-friendly side) print only in black. Once the black cartridge is emptied, you can simply install a new one.

You can get a unit that prints in color, but those require different toner cartridges for different color hues and can be a little pricey.

From the consumer’s perspective, inkjet printers are more commonly used because they’re not that expensive, some of which come at less than 100 dollars.

See also: Why Do Printer Cartridges Cost So Much?

However, their cost per page may be quite a surprise to these consumers. Your inkjet’s cost per page may be as little as 0.05 dollars or 0.75 dollars, depending on the kind of data your print and whether it’s mostly text or if you add a lot of pictures.

And even though the most affordable laser printer could cost you more than 100 dollars and print only in monochrome, their cost per page is a lot more efficient.

You can also print in color with a laser printer, but a color laser printer would cost you twice the budget of a monochrome one –which is already not that affordable. Add to that, their toner may cost a lot more than the ink of an inkjet printer.

But as we've mentioned before, toner is usually more expensive than ink in the beginning, but the cartridges last a lot longer than ink. Moreover, if you stick to printing text (mostly), then you'll definitely save up a lot on the cost per page.

Read more: How To Calculate a Printer’s Per Page Cost and Why Is It Important?

Ultimately, if you install a higher-capacity cartridge, the price can radically be reduced to a couple of cents or less per sheet.

Volume of Printing

The volume of printing may also interfere with the cost-effectiveness of the printer you choose.

If you print a couple hundred pages per year, an inkjet should suit you just fine.

However, if you print thousands of documents and sheets, a laser printer would definitely save you a lot of money in the long run.

The Kind of Things You Print

The type of printing you do also has an impact on the optimum printer choice.

If you need a printer that does an all-around job, printing image, graphic, and text, an inkjet would be the better investment option.

This is because it has the ability to produce satisfactory text quality and photo-specific models beat the quality of any laser printer in terms of quality, depth, and richness of hues on glossy photo paper.

On the other hand, if your printing jobs are mainly text documents, a laser printer would be the better choice.

Laser printers can produce about 20 pages per minute or faster (two times or even three times as fast as most inkjet printers).

Furthermore, their text quality is more accurate and crisper than any inkjet.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re going to go for an ink-based or toner-based printer, make sure you do your research well and have your goals in mind. This helps you get the printer that would best suit your needs while saving as much as possible on your printing budget.

And whichever you choose, it’s going to be better than the dot-matrix one that prints like a typewriter with grainy text and an unbearable noise when it operates.

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