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Printers are categorized according to whether or not the image printed is formed by striking an ink ribbon against the paper. Impact printers have physical contact; non-impact printers (NIPs) do not. Non-impact printers are now most common, as they are faster and quieter than impact printers. Non-impact printers form characters and images without direct physical contact between the printing mechanism and the paper. For example, inkjet printers spray tiny drops of ink onto the page, while laser printers have a cylindrical drum that rolls electrically charged ink onto the paper.
Non-impact printers use a cartridge filled with toner or liquid ink, which allows them to produce fine-quality images quickly and quietly. The printer cartridges are easily recyclable, resulting in environmental benefits as well.
Types of non-impact printers include the laser printer, which creates images with dots. Laser printers are one of the most popular types, as they produce sharp, crisp images and also provide resolution from 300 dpi to 1200 dpi. They are not only fast, but also quiet.
Inkjet printers also form images with tiny dots; they simply spray small charged droplets of ink from four nozzles through holes in a matrix at high speed onto paper. It consists of a print cartridge filled with liquid ink and small nozzles in the form of a matrix. However, inkjet printers they are slower than laser printers. An advancement on inkjet technology is the bubble-jet printer, which uses a type of small heating element which pushes specially formulated ink through print heads with 128 miniature nozzles.
With thermal printers, output characters are formed by a special heating element placed with special heat-sensitive waxy paper, forming darkened dots when the element reaches a critical temperature. Thermal printers are usually quite expensive as compared to other non-impact printers, but produce extremely high quality printouts.