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Inkjet printing. What is it and how does it work?

impresión de inyección de tinta

The additive manufacturing technique of inkjet printing is based on the 2D printer’s technique of using a jet to deposit tiny droplets of ink on paper. In the additive process, the ink is replaced by thermoplastic materials and wax, which are held in a molten state.

More simply, inkjet printing is a type of computer printing that recreates a digital image by propelling ink droplets onto paper and plastic substrates

Inkjet printers are the most widely used type of printer as well as laser printers, ranging from small inexpensive consumer models to very expensive professional machines.

The inkjet printing process

The inkjet printing process, or inkjet printing, begins with the build material (thermoplastic) and the support material (wax) being held in a molten state inside two heated tanks.

Each of these materials is fed to an inkjet print head that moves in the X-Y plane and shoots tiny droplets to the locations needed to form a layer of the part.

Both the build material and the support material cool and solidify instantly.

After a layer has been completed, a milling head moves across the layer to smooth the surface.

Particles resulting from this cutting operation are sucked up by the particle collector.

The elevator then lowers the build platform and departs so that the next layer can be constructed. After this process is repeated for each layer and the part is complete, the part can be removed and the wax support material can be melted.

The inkjet printing process is the way in which a digital document or image is printed on a physical media, typically paper, through the use of a driver, printer, liquid ink and paper

This process goes through the steps of how the information is sent to the printer after pressing “Print”, how the stepper motors are activated, how the printhead ink is deposited, how duplex printing works, and ends with the ejection of the paper from the printer

Impresión inkjet

Overview of inkjet printing

The complex process of inkjet printing a document occurs relatively quickly, allowing users to convert digital media into a physical copy

Using a computer, the data is translated into readable data for the printer using a driver. That data is sent to the printer at the speed it needs to carry out the printing process

Paper is loaded into the printer from the feed tray using stepper motors to move the paper through the printer in precise increments, ensuring accurate ink deposition

The last step before the paper exits the printer is ink deposition, which occurs in one of two ways: thermal bubble or piezoelectric. Both ways cause ink droplets to splash onto the page, as indicated by the data received from the computer.

If a paper is printed on the other side, it will produce a duplex print before being ejected to the output tray.

Benefits of inkjet printing

There are many benefits for printers and consumers that are driving the growth and interest in production inkjet printing. Each market has specific benefits to using the technology, but overall there are common advantages to this printing technique. Although an effective and reliable alternative is risography.

  • Water-based inks: Compared to many other printing technologies, the inks in inkjet printers are primarily made of water. Some of these inks are composed of more than 90% water and use virtually no VOCs or hydrocarbon-based solvents. Water-based printing is a preferred technology for businesses and consumers who care about the environment and its impact on the planet.
  • Personalized printing: A common practice in direct mail marketing is to print a common ad and distribute it within a geographic area. Response rates to this type of advertising are often greatly increased by greater personalization of content through digital printing, such as inkjet printing at print shops. These printers are not suitable for printing edible foils.
  • Print weight: Putting ink on the paper adds weight to the page. This extra weight can increase the cost of shipping, postage rates and the cost of removing the ink for recycling. An A4 page printed in full-coverage four-color offset can add up to 5 grams/m2 of ink to the page. Waterjet inks can produce the same image quality with less than 1 gram/m2 of ink after drying.
  • Structural waste: Inkjet printing can eliminate many waste elements in the typical printing process and supply chain. With digital inkjet printing, there are no printing plates and related chemicals. Digital printing can reduce makeready and make-ready times and eliminate start-up press waste

The secrets of inkjet printing

Ink is the hidden cost of inket printing.

Ink is the hidden cost of inkjet printing. In 10 years, you could spend 20 times more on ink than you spent on your printer.

Based on actual figures for a typical popular printer.

Artwork: By printing a modest 20-25 pages a week, you can expect to spend twice as much ink each year as you originally spent on your computer. So, in 10 years, you’ll spend 20 times more on ink than you spent on your printer. With Giclée printing, you can expect a higher quality product with a longer life than ordinary inkjet printing for artwork.

Inkjet printers are extremely inexpensive to buy; even all-in-one printers, with basic scanning and “photocopying” (which involves scanning and then printing) built into the same machine are remarkably inexpensive.

First of all take a moment to reflect on how printer manufacturers can afford to do this: they don’t make their money on the printers, they make their money on the inkjet cartridges that you will continue to put in them forever

Considering that inkjet cartridges are little more than little plastic boxes with sponges filled with ink inside, they are very expensive

The printers themselves seem to be designed to use as much ink as possible with endless nozzle cleaning maintenance routines (each of which uses a little more ink).

Impresión inkjet o de inyección de tinta

what can you do to save ink (and money) on inkjet printing?

When shopping for an inkjet printer, be sure to check out detailed consumer reviews.

  • Look for a model with a refillable ink tank or other ink-saving features.
  • Make sure it will accept cheap compatible cartridges to save you from buying the expensive manufacturer’s originals, and (if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty from time to time) see if you’ll be able to refill the cartridges yourself using a bottle of ink and a syringe (There are easy tutorials on YouTube to learn how to do this)
  • Print in draft mode whenever you can (it’s faster and uses less ink) and try experimenting with ink-saving fonts. Several independent testers have concluded that Century Gothic, Calibri and Times New Roman save a considerable amount of ink compared to Arial, most people’s default Microsoft font.

Now that you know all about inkjet printing you can learn about other interesting types of printing such as thermal, hot stamping or letterpress printing.

Richard H.

Richard H.

With a lifelong dedication to the printing industry, I have collaborated with various print houses, honing my expertise in pre-print design, material selection, and technical intricacies. As a seasoned professional, I bring to "The Color Blog" deep insights into materials and the world of printing, aiming to shed light on the craftsmanship and nuances behind each printed masterpiece.View Author posts

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