How does an inkjet printer cartridge work?

Dot matrix printers are long out of fashion, color laser printers are still very expensive, this leaves inkjet printers are the leading product, most computer users, especially home users and small business owners own one. The principle that drives the inkjet revolution is complex but actually quite clever and easy to understand. An inkjet printer cartridge is nothing more than a reservoir for the ink; the contents unite with the paper through tiny nozzles known as the print head. The ink is released from the cartridge in tiny droplets and at tremendous speed, up to 6000 droplets per second. The contents of the black ink cartridge is used for text printing purposes, the three colors that are contained in the color cartridge are pooled to form any imaginable color.

Most color cartridges follow the common format of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. These colors are held in different compartments within the cartridge. These three primary colors are mixed to result in thousands of different colors which work effectively on many different types of paper, including photo quality papers. When the printer is simply printing text, the computer sends the data to the printer, the print head then reproduces the demanded letter with many hundreds of tiny droplets of ink that are all fired simultaneously.

Some printer manufacturers design and produce their inkjet printer cartridge with the print head built right into it. As the print head is the most frequently used component of a printer, it is the component that takes the most abuse. By integrating the print head with the replaceable cartridge, every time the cartridge is replaced, the printer gets a new print head, this allows for consistent, high quality printing.

The print head usually fires ink using heat in some cases or vibration. Print heads that work on heat vaporize the ink in the cartridge, this results in a tiny bubble of ink that gets forced through the nozzle and deposited on the paper. Vibrating print heads use movement to eject the ink from the cartridge.

The ink cartridge is quite expensive to replace in comparison with the initial cost of the printer. Although the printer manufacturer strongly suggests that OEM cartridges be used, many users find that refilled or remanufactured cartridges work equally as well.

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