Why do you need a home printer

FAQ: Printer

Ink or Toner: The Cost

So far I have always been of the opinion that laser printers are cheaper in terms of consumption costs than inkjet printers with their overpriced cartridges. Now and then I read that the opposite is the case. What's right now?

Ink devices are almost always cheaper for home and office printers for which you buy original or toner cartridges. In order to obtain a comparable measure for the ink and toner costs, we calculate the costs per standard page: To do this, we divide the price by the range of the respective color container, which is calculated for color printers based on the ISO / IEC 24711 standard and the five-page standard document ISO / IEC 24712 is determined. The standardized test procedure allows you to check at any time whether the manufacturer's information on the range is correct. In our sample tests, the measured ranges were consistently 5 to 10 percent above the manufacturer's specifications.

In the printer tests of recent years, the ink costs per ISO color page were at least one to two cents below the toner costs of comparable laser printers. Only a few specialists, such as mobile inkjet printers, printed more expensively. The few ink models that only use black ink also print cheaply. The difference is particularly blatant when you compare ink printers with large, refillable tanks and laser printers (home and workplace devices): For color laser models, the toner costs per ISO page are 8 to 24 cents, for ink tank printers it is 0.7 cents; It looks similar with black and white printers.

Laser devices for companies print more cheaply - mostly multifunction devices - with maintenance contracts and billing per printed page. The customer does not have to worry about toner costs or the replacement of other consumables such as the photo drum, transfer ribbon and fuser unit. Private users are better off with an inkjet printer, unless they only print a few pages per year.

Laser printers are fast but expensive

I would like a laser printer because they print faster and in better quality than inkjet printers. But I rarely print; isn't a laser printer too expensive?

You can get small black and white laser printers for your desk from as little as 60 euros. If you need color prints, you can get a color laser printer from around 150 euros - depending on the availability, less. Illustrious names such as Kyocera, Oki and Xerox can be found among the affordable devices. Despite the low prices, these models are equipped for office use: 250-sheet cassette, network and often duplex printing are standard, but they weigh around 20 kg and require a lot of floor space. If you are looking for something more compact, you will find it at Brother, Canon and HP. If you print little and infrequently, the high cost of toner should play a minor role.

It only gets more expensive for multifunctional models with a scanner and copier function: you will only find it in exceptional cases for less than 200 euros. Simple multi-function ink printers, on the other hand, are available for as little as 60 euros.

Print quality depends not only on the printing technology and device class, but also on what you are printing. When it comes to text and line graphics, laser devices almost always do better than inkjet printers, although differences in current models can only be seen with a magnifying glass: Since the toner only sits on the surface of the paper, the edges of letters usually look like they were drawn with a ruler under the microscope . Ink always penetrates the paper fibers, which makes the edges look more irregular - but only when enlarged, with the naked eye you can no longer see it with office ink printers at the latest.

When it comes to printing speeds, laser printers usually have the edge. Laser devices always print with maximum quality, even at high speed. Good inkjet printers can keep up with laser printers in terms of speed, devices with page-wide print heads even outperform the laser competition. However, this only applies to normal quality; if you set the highest quality, they will be significantly slower. An exception to the laser devices are multi-pass color printers: They only have one photo drum and need four exposure processes for color printing. You print in color about four times as slowly as in black and white - even cheap ink printers are faster.

If you want to print graphics with colored areas and photos in high quality, ink printers are the better recommendation because they have a higher resolution, finer raster and can mix color tones better with liquid color inks (so-called dye inks) without the resolution suffering. Laser printers, on the other hand, cannot print colors on top of each other to create a mixed color, since the color dots would cover each other. To represent the mixed color, the dots are printed close to each other.

Prevent drying out

How do I avoid clogging the nozzles of my inkjet printer due to dried ink?

The first and most important piece of advice is: Don't power your printer from a switchable power strip that your PC is attached to. Always switch it off using the power button and wait until it has come to a complete rest before pulling the power plug - after all, you shut down the PC before you unplug it. When switching off with the power button, the printer moves the head to a park position, which seals the nozzles like the cap of a felt pen and thus protects them from drying out. Since the printers do not know how long they have been idle after they have been disconnected from the power supply, they first clean the nozzles, which uses up ink. Better to leave the printer connected to the network. When switched off, they consume 0.1 to 0.3 watts; At 30 cents / kWh that costs a maximum of 90 cents per year - ink is more expensive. Laser printers have no problems pulling the plug, so there are still models that have a real power switch instead of a button.

If possible, use original inks if you expect a longer service life. Some foreign inks dry up faster or are not optimally adapted to your printer (for example with cheap China inks from the Internet). Modern print heads sometimes have 600 nozzles and more - mind you, only for black! If the replacement ink then contains color particles that are a little too large, these can clog the fine nozzles, which usually means a total loss. Obtaining compensation is usually futile.

Especially with office inkjet printers, which mostly work with pigment inks for better coverage, the monthly printing of a nozzle test pattern is worthwhile. Home printers with dye inks are less prone to drying out (see "Black ink has dried up")

Black ink dried up

Since I rarely print, my HP Envy often stays in the closet for months. After long periods of standstill, there are often dropouts such as missing lines in black printing. Once the Envy didn't print black at all and I had to change the cartridge, even though the printer still reported a third full. I don't have that many problems with the other printing inks.

Cheap printers from HP and Canon usually work with only two cartridges: one for black and a combination cartridge for the primary colors cyan, magenta and yellow. The inks don't just differ in color. The combination cartridge for the basic colors contains dye inks, i.e. inks that only contain liquid dyes. You can therefore print them directly on top of each other to create mixed colors for high-resolution photos, for example. The black ink, on the other hand, is optimized for good coverage and high text contrasts. It consists of solid color particles in a carrier liquid. The color particles remain on the paper surface like the toner of the laser printer, only the liquid component is absorbed into the paper.

In recent years, manufacturers have reduced the amount of liquid in order to minimize the fraying of the edges of letters and to achieve a typeface that is comparable to laser printing. This makes the black ink more prone to drying out: the solid pigments clump together and clog the fine nozzles. As a preventive measure, it is sufficient to print a nozzle test pattern once a month - at HP the print quality diagnosis page. In this way, every nozzle is addressed and flushed out.

Empty ink cartridges?

My Epson printer reports an empty cartridge and stops working, although it appears that there is still ink. In any case, the last print shows no ink dropouts.

The printers from Brother and Epson use piezo technology, with which the size and position of the ink droplets can be controlled very precisely. To do this, however, the pressure chamber must be completely filled with ink. An air bubble in the ink chamber can block the nozzle: the electromechanical piezo crystal has only a small stroke and merely compresses the bubble without pushing it out of the nozzle. The only remedy is the degassed ink, which gradually dissolves the air during cleaning processes. If there is no more ink, the chamber draws air and can permanently paralyze the nozzle. Therefore, the printers stop operating before the first signs of failure can be observed on the print. Canon and HP printers work with the bubble jet process, which deliberately creates a bubble by heating the ink, which presses the ink through the nozzle onto the paper. With this technique, printing can continue until the first light stripes appear due to insufficient ink supply. The nozzles are not permanently blocked. (rop)

This article comes from c't 6/2020.