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How Inkjet Printer Works?

You just returned from a long vacation and want to fill up your memory book. No matter how advanced the technology has become, you will still choose a printer to get hard copies of your favourite memories. There are several types of printers to choose from, each type serving a specific purpose. The inkjet printer becomes an ideal option when you want better quality prints on a limited budget.

To simply define it, an inkjet printer is a unit that prints data on paper by spraying droplets of ink. Even if it sounds simple, the actual printing process is a bit complex in reality. Have you ever wondered how an inkjet printer works? If yes, then this article will provide useful information about the working of an inkjet printer. It will also cover important details related to the components of an inkjet printer.

Inkjet Printer

As we have already discussed, inkjet printers are a simple device that uses ink droplets to print a given data. Depending on the user’s need, the data might be a simple report, image, or document. Inkjet printers are popularly used for domestic and office-spaces as they offer better-quality prints. These units use dye-based inks, which lowers the overall cost of the printing process

The positioning of the ink droplets is done very precisely to increase print quality by adjusting the resolution. This printer offers precise control over the quantity of sprayed ink to reduce wastage. Almost everything is electrically controlled and accurately coordinated with the mechanical components. We will learn about the working of inkjet printers in simple steps.

Working of Inkjet Printer

To study the working of an inkjet printer, we must understand how the digital data is recognized by the printer. All the printable data is sent to the printer via an external device or a computer. The computer system uses a printer driver to communicate with the printers. The driver converts all the necessary information into a suitable language for the inkjet printer. The converted information is then sent to the printhead where ink cartridges are located.

When the printer processes the data, a raw sheet is fed to the printing system manually or via an automatic document feeder. After processing the data, the print head prepares the set of nozzles for each color of ink. Ink is collected or directly supplied to the nozzles located at the print head. When printing begins, bubbles or pressure difference is created at the nozzles to discharge a set amount of ink droplets.

Connected to a stepper motor, the print head moves the nozzles over the paper to precisely drop ink over the intended areas. If the inkjet printer features duplex printing, the page is automatically turned over to print on the other side. When the ink reaches the surface of the page, it is absorbed by the layer of the page. The wet paper is passed through a pair of heated rollers to dry the ink. The printed page is then ejected to the output tray where users can collect it.

Parts of An Inkjet Printer

Now that we know the working of an inkjet printer, it becomes equally important to know the printer’s components. Each component plays a direct or indirect role in the printing process. Some components are integral for the printing process while other components improve efficiency. We have explained every part of an inkjet printer in detail below:

1. Input Tray And ADF

The primary step of the printing process is to load a page. The pages are stored in the input trays in large quantities. The input tray has a good capacity for holding more pages, eliminating the need to reload the pages. Some printers also feature an automatic document feeder (ADF), which picks and loads the page for printing. The ADF and input tray are important components for automating the printing process.

2. Print Head

The printhead is the most important part of the inkjet printer. It houses subcomponents like nozzles, ink cartridges, etc. The print head serves the role of converting digital data into an accurate print. It helps accurately place the nozzles in a desired location to get a detailed print. The ink cartridges are also fitted on the print head to allow a constant ink flow.

3. Stepper Motor Assembly

The print head is connected to a stepper motor to provide the necessary motion for printing. The stepper motor can move the print head so precisely that higher resolutions of up to 600 dpi are maintained easily. The stepper motor is connected with a belt assembly for a smoother transfer of motions. It is fitted on a stabilizer bar which offers the required rigidity to the setup.

4. Ink And Ink Cartridge

The printing process is incomplete without suitable ink. The inkjet printer uses dye-based inks since the nozzles have a very small gap. The dye is a concentrated color shade solution mixed with other liquids to increase flowability. The ink is stored in the ink cartridges for an easy refilling process. A printer uses 4 types of ink cartridges including cyan, yellow, green, and black color. All these colors are mixed in a controlled manner to get several shades of colors.

5. Nozzles

The nozzles are featured at the bottom of the print head. There are several numbers of nozzles placed at equal distances from each other. Each color gets a dedicated set of nozzles to avoid mixing ink. The nozzles use two popular methods to drop a precise amount of ink. The first method uses a thermal coil to create bubbles around the ink. The bubble expands due to heat, forcing the ink to escape the nozzle gap. In the second method, the nozzles use a membrane that expands after receiving a signal. The expansion creates pressure in the ink chamber and the ink droplets escape through the gap in a controlled amount.

6. Paper Advance Rollers

Once the paper has been fed to the printing setup, it has to move through several printer sections. The paper advance roller carried the paper from the input tray to the output tray at a constant speed. These rollers are coupled with a separate motor to get a smooth motion during the printing process. The set of rollers offers support only on one side of the page except for duplex printing.

7. Heated Rollers

The surface becomes wet when the print head sprays several drops of ink on the paper. If the ink is not dried quickly, it might spread uncontrollably. This phenomenon happens at a very minor level but eventually destroys the details of the print. A wet print also risks staining the user’s hands or other prints. The paper is passed through a set of heated rollers for these reasons. The heat transfer helps lock the ink on the paper surface and cure it instantly.

8. Output Tray

The page is directed toward the output tray at the end of the printing process. The output tray is located at the back or bottom side of the printer. It collects and stores the printed papers until the user recollects them. Output trays are essential when printing involves a large volume of prints. It prevents the need for manually collecting printed papers.

9. Control Panel

The control panel serves as an all-in-one stop for all the printer-related settings and commands. It houses a screen (mono-color or colored) with dedicated function buttons or a touch interface. Some printer models also use deducted apps to remotely access the printer. Modern inkjet printers also support voice commands via Siri, Google Assistant, etc.

Various Types of Inkjet Printers

Several types of inkjet printers are available in the market, each suitable for a specific type of workload. The categorization of inkjet printers is also done based on their ink-discharge method. Continuous inkjet printers and drop-on-demand inkjet printers are popular options in this category. The drop-on-demand inkjet printer is further subdivided based on the printhead design and ink flow.

Speaking about the categorization of inkjet printers based on workload, users get multiple options. The standard inkjet printer is suitable for domestic as well as lower printing loads. All-in-one printers are used when a user has to deal with huge volumes of prints. Professional inkjet printers and wide-format printers are ideal options for commercial use. The photo printers are tuned to print colorful and detailed photos in BW and colored modes. Portable inkjet printers are smaller in size and can be easily transported anywhere.

Properties of Paper Used For An Inkjet Printer

Using a compatible paper with the inkjet printer is equally crucial. The properties of paper must support the properties of the ink. The paper must allow the absorption of ink efficiently without being porous. If the paper has a higher content of fibers or cotton, the ink will simply pass through the paper and stain other papers. Similarly, the paper used for printing photos must be smooth enough to prevent light from scattering.

The papers used for inlet printers are a bit thicker than the other types of paper. The surface is smooth enough to reflect the colors precisely to the user’s eyes. The absorption quality must be sufficient enough to hold the ink in place. Coated papers are used to eliminate the problem of over-absorbed ink. These papers also help increase the resolution level without causing ink feathering on the surface.

Difference Between Inkjet Printers And Laser Printers

Both inkjet and laser printers are marvels of technology. These printers are used for printing documents, reports, photos, and many other formats of data. The major difference between these printers is their working principles. Inkjet works on the principle of spraying tiny droplets of ink over a controlled area. On the other hand, laser printers use properties of static electricity to print data on paper.

Since the printing technology differs, the working medium also changes for both printers. Inkjet printers use dye-based or pigment-based inks that can be easily sprayed via nozzles. The laser printer uses toner, a powdered form of color. The ink cartridges of inkjet printers are cheaper than the toner cartridges of a laser printer. Laser printers get the upper hand when it comes to print durability. The laser-printed prints are waterproof and resist smudging.

Pros And Cons of Inkjet Printers

Like any other printer, the inkjet printer comes with a list of pros and cons. Users can choose the ideal printer for their workouts by reviewing and comparing these pros and cons. We have compiled some of the major pros and cons of inkjet printers below:


  • The inkjet printers are one of the most affordable printers when compared with other types of printers
  • The lightweight construction and compact body make these units suitable for transportation
  • Due to the low number of moving parts, the printers do not create noises while printing
  • The preparation time for this printer is almost zero, and the user gets instant prints
  • The professional models of inkjet prints are more efficient and print at a faster rate


  • The print quality might be great, but it is vulnerable to moisture or water
  • The nozzles in the printer head tend to clog up due to dried ink
  • The domestic models of inkjet printers are not faster and hence not suitable for large volumes of printing
  • The prints need over 24 hours to cure and dry, even after being fed to the heated rollers
  • The ink cartridges are prone to false error messages due to miscalculations of the remaining ink level

Inkjet Printer – FAQs

1. Does the inkjet printer dry up?

Ans: The cartridges of inkjet printers are prone to drying up if left unused for a long time. The ink droplet at the bottom of the nozzle dries out when the printer is sitting idle for a month. To prevent this from happening, users must use the inkjet printer frequently. If the printer will not be used for a longer time, it must be powered off.

2. What is the lifespan of an inkjet printer?

Ans: Depending on the usage of the inkjet printer, its overall lifespan varies. If we are talking about technological advancements, inkjet printers can become dated every 3 to 5 years. If users carry out periodic printer maintenance, its lifespan can be increased by up to 5 years or more.

3. Can you use glossy papers with an inkjet printer?

Ans: The inkjet printers can print detailed and accurate data on glossy paper. The glossy papers have a non-porous construction which helps in absorbing the ink efficiently. Since over-absorption of ink does not happen, glossy papers can be used with inkjet printers.

4. How do inkjet cartridges work?

Ans: The inkjet cartridges are minted over the print head to supply ink for the nozzles directly. When the printing process is started, the cartridges receive signals from the print head. A set amount of ink is supplied to the nozzles, which helps maintain a constant flow of ink spray. When the process is completed, the cartridge stops the ink supply to prevent overflow.

Final Words

Inkjet printers might look similar to any type of printer, but a different printing experience makes them unique. These units are available at an affordable price tag and do not compromise the printing quality. These qualities mark them suitable for a wide range of applications. As a user, it is natural to be curious about the working of these printers. In this article, we explain the working of inkjet printers and the details related to their components. Using this knowledge, users will surely value their inkjet printers.

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