When purchasing printer supplies, it is crucial to know which cartridges are compatible with the machine that requires a replacement. Otherwise, attempting to locate the appropriate cartridge can be frustratingly time consuming. While some people mistakenly use the terms ink and toner interchangeably, they are in fact two distinct products that function very differently. Though toner and ink are both used inside printers, they are by no means interchangeable. To avoid confusion, it is helpful for buyers to understand the basic characteristics which set them apart.
Functionality is the main distinction between toner and ink cartridges. Once buyers understand this major difference, they are not likely to get ink and toner mixed up. The next step is comparing secondary aspects like price. Ultimately, the buyer's printer preference determines which type of cartridge is necessary. Toner and ink cartridges are sold at office supply shops and department stores. They are also available through various Internet vendors as well as online shopping sites like eBay.
The Main Differences Between Toner and Ink
The physical characteristics of ink and toner cartridges differ considerably, both in terms of design format and contents. For one thing, toner is a powder, while ink is a liquid. Toner and ink cartridges are both used to print documents and photos, but the methods by which inkjet and laser printers accomplish this are fundamentally different. In order to understand why toner cartridges are not equal to ink cartridges, consumers need a basic knowledge of printer technology. A closer look at inkjet and laser printer functionality can help to illuminate the ways in which toner and ink work differently.
Laser Printers Use Toner Cartridges
Because of the unique role of toner in the xerographic printing process, ink is not an acceptable substitute. The two main components of toner are iron oxide and plastic resin. Laser printers do not simply press toner directly onto the paper. Instead, a laser first draws an electrostatic template of the image onto a rotating metal drum inside the printer. The drum, which is covered in photosensitive material, starts out with either a positive or negative charge.
An extremely precise laser alters the electrical charge in certain spots according to data fed from the computer. The drum is then coated in magnetically charged toner, but the fine particles only adhere to the areas where the laser previously defined the image. Next a sheet of paper, which has also been magnetically charged, rolls past the drum and draws the toner away. Lastly, the fuser sets the image by warming and melting the plastic particles.
Inkjet Printers Use Ink Cartridges
Inkjet printer technology is a bit easier to understand, but no less innovative. As their name suggests, inkjet printers require ink cartridges. The liquid ink inside the cartridge is locked in an airtight foil compartment. The ink cartridges are loaded into the print head, which is fitted with numerous microscopic ink nozzles. As the print head moves back and forth across the paper, the nozzles create the image with droplets of ink.
The technology responsible for controlling the jets in an inkjet printer varies depending on the brand and model. For example, thermal bubble printers use heat to control ink flow, while piezoelectric printers rely on electrically charged vibrations. In either case, information sent from the computer dictates exactly how the printer applies the ink from the cartridges.