Detailed Working of an Inkjet Printer

While most of us use printers, we are not aware of how they work. It would be fascinating when you know how a printer prints the image on paper.

Understanding the working mechanism of a printers also lets you use the machine safely and more efficiently.

In this article, we will learn about inkjet technology, the different parts of printers, and how they collectively work to print the images.

Let us get started with the discussion.

Table of Contents

How Does An Inkjet Printer Work?

How does the Printhead Work?1. Piezoelectric Technology

2. Thermal Bubble Technology

3. Continuous Inkjet Technology

What Happens When You Select the “Click OK to Print” Button?

What Are The Advantages and Disadvantages Of Inkjet Printers?Advantages of the Inkjet Printers

Disadvantages of the inkjet printers

Which Papers To Use For Inkjet Printers?

What Are The Different Types of Inks For Inkjet Printers?1. Pigment-based Ink

2. Solvent Ink

3. Ultraviolet Ink

4. Dye-based ink

What are “Page-width format” and “Wide-format”? What is the difference between them?

How To Clean The Nozzles Of Printheads?


How Does An Inkjet Printer Work?

Before talking about the inkjet technology that plays a crucial role in printing, let us first learn of the various components in inkjet printers.


The inkjet printers feature a print head with numerous tiny holes that drop the tiny droplets of ink onto the paper.

Working Mechanism

When the thousands of tiny holes drop the ink droplets onto the paper, they together create your desired image or text on it. Depending on the requirements, you can even alter the sizes and colour of the droplets for getting sharp and photo-realistic images.

Printer Resolution

If you want to know the resolution of your printer, just check the dots per inch (DPI) mentioned on it. Based on the model, the inkjet printers may have higher or lower DPI. The DPI is an indication that your device can print a specific number of droplets per inch on the page.

If your printer has a higher DPI, it means that the device can make very small droplets and print a sharper image.

Printer Nozzles

Let us talk about the nozzles or tiny holes present on the printhead of the printer. The number of nozzles each inkjet printer may contain falls in the range of 300 to 600. The size of these nozzles may vary from model to model and can be between 35 micrometers and 70 micrometers. That means these printers are most suitable for micro-printing.


The inkjet printers have high efficiency and can print about 30 pages in a single minute with a 1,400 DPI resolution.

After the device finishes the printing job, the nozzles get covered by a large-cap. This helps in preventing the ink from drying out.

How does the Printhead Work?

The printhead is an essential part of the printer that plays a pivotal role in spraying ink drops onto the paper. It features an array of closely-knit microscopic nozzles that spray the ink onto paper, canvas, and other surfaces.

The way these tiny nozzles spray the droplets of ink is entirely dependent on the technology used. Let us have a look at the different technologies used in inkjet printers.

  1. Piezoelectric Technology
  2. Thermal Bubble Technology
  3. Continuous Inkjet Technology

Let us learn how each technology works:

1. Piezoelectric Technology

Mostly Found In – You can find the piezoelectric technology in Epson printers alone.

Design – Inkjet printers with piezoelectric technology feature piezo crystals that are located behind the ink reservoirs. The job of these crystals is to transfer the ink flow.

Working Mechanism – In this technology, the piezoelectric cartridges transmit a small electrical charge to the piezo crystals. This will cause the crystals to vibrate. Whenever the crystals vibrate, they force spray the ink drops onto the surface through the nozzles. As the crystal keeps vibrating outward, it starts drawing more ink from the reservoir and replaces the ink sprayed.

2. Thermal Bubble Technology

Mostly Found In – You can find the thermal bubble technology in Canon or HP printers.

Design – Inkjet printers with thermal bubble technology feature resistors that are located in the ink reservoirs. The job of these resistors is to create heat inside and vapourize the ink.

Working Mechanism – In this technology, the resistors create heat inside and vapourize the ink, forming a bubble. As this bubble keeps expanding, it forces the ink out of the nozzle, spraying it onto the papers.

The moment this bubble pops up, it creates a vacuum that draws more ink from the ink reservoir to the cartridge head. The number of nozzles each bubble inkjet printhead may contain falls under the range of 300 to 600.

Inkjet printers with thermal bubble technology are the most widely preferred printing devices by the majority of people. The ink used in such printers is mostly water-based, dye-based, and pigment-based.

3. Continuous Inkjet Technology

Mostly Found In – You can find the continuous inkjet technology in those printers exclusively for marking and coding packages.

Design – Inkjet printers with continuous technology feature a high-pressure pump and electrostatic deflection plates. The job of this pump is to draw ink from the reservoir and direct it like a stream to the nozzles.

Working Mechanism – While the ink stream is being directed to the nozzles, the electrode charges and passes through an electrostatic field. After that, it deflects the ink drops to the paper and prints on them using the electrostatic deflection plates.

Let us see what happens when you click on the OK button for printing.

What Happens When You Select the “Click OK to Print” Button?

We typically find this dialogue box every time we try to get a print. When you click on the OK button, there will be a series of events happening during that process. Let us learn what those events are in the below steps:

  • The moment you select OK, the software application activates by sending the required data to print to the printer driver.
  • The driver after receiving the data translates it into a different format that is understandable by the printer. Furthermore, it also checks whether the printer is online or not and if it is available for printing action.
  • The driver sends the translated data to the printer from the computer using a USB cable or a parallel cable or Wi-Fi network connectivity.
  • After receiving the data from the computer, the printer stores it in the buffer. Depending on the printer model, the RAM of the buffer can be anywhere between 512 KB to 16 MB. These buffers play a vital role in allowing the PC to finish the printing process quickly. That means, your device does not have to wait to print the actual page. A printer with a larger buffer will be able to hold documents of any size, format, or several documents.
  • During its idle period, the printer allows a cleaning cycle that ensures the proper cleaning of the printheads. After it finishes the cleaning cycle, the printer will again be ready for printing.
  • The next step in the process is feeding the paper into the printer from the paper tray. This is achieved by the paper feed stepper motor. There is a small trigger mechanism that gets depressed in the tray when there are papers. If there are no papers, this trigger will not get depressed. Immediately, the device will turn on the “Out of Paper” LED light. Simultaneously, it sends the same info to the PC by creating an alert. computer.
  • The following event is feeding the paper into the printer and position it as required. The printhead stepper motor activates the roller that causes the printhead assembly to move across the page. It will be a start-stop process, i.e., the motor stops for a specific time and then starts again. The time of pause is very less for about a fraction of a second. It stops each time the printhead sprays dots of ink onto the page, moves a bit, and then stops. The process continues but in a faster motion.
  • At each step, there will be multiple dots printed. Here, the printer sprays all the CMYK colours from the cartridges precisely in the required amounts. This allows various colours to be identifiable.
  • The paper feed stepper motor allows the paper to advance a fraction of an inch after it finishes printing each pass. It will further reset the printhead as required and again, it starts moving across the page for printing.
  • This is a continuous process that will take place until the complete page gets printed. However, the time taken to finish printing a page may vary for every printer model. Furthermore, it is also dependent on the type of information, i.e., the images and their sizes. Here is a simple example for your better understanding. Let us assume that a printer takes about one minute to print 16 pages of black text. The same device may take about a few minutes to print one colour page with a full image as the size of the paper.
  • After the printhead completes printing, it stops completely. The paper feed stepper motor comes into play again. It activates the roller that causes the printed page to push out into the output tray. Most printer models, these days, use fast-drying inks that will allow you to pick up the printed copies immediately.

What Are The Advantages and Disadvantages Of Inkjet Printers?

Let us learn about the merits and demerits of using inkjet printers:

Advantages of the Inkjet Printers

  • The inkjet printers use fast-drying inks that will allow the user to pick up the printed copies immediately without smudging the page.
  • The inkjet printers have a quiet operation when compared to other printers like dot matrix and Daisy wheel printers.
  • The printheads of these printers come in various resolutions that will allow the user to enjoy high-quality prints. A few models of inkjet printers can also print in photorealistic colours.
  • The inkjet printers are very affordable. They have low costs per page when compared to thermal wax printers, and laser printers.
  • The inkjet devices do not require any warm-up time, unlike the others. If even if they, it is for a very less time. Your printer is ready to print the documents the moment your turn it on for operation.
  • Unlike the other printers, the inkjet printing devices are very small and compact in design. Hence, they occupy less space and you can easily carry them.

Disadvantages of the inkjet printers

  • The printheads of the inkjet printer are lightweight and are prone to get clogged easily.
  • They have high maintenance costs because of the expensive replacement of the cartridges. Because of this, most people and businesses prefer or switch over to laser printers.
  • The other disadvantage of using inkjet printers is the high bleeding. The device may create a sloppy appearance of the printed document, as the ink moves sideways away from the intended area.
  • The inkjet printers operate slowly in comparison to the laser printers.
  • The inkjet printers come with paper trays that have the capacity to hold only 100 sheets.

Which Papers To Use For Inkjet Printers?

Inkjet printers are the best at delivering high-quality prints on plain paper. You can even print images and other documents on these uncoated papers. However, you can also use papers of other types if you want to have a non-comprising quality that looks like a photograph.

You can use photographic papers that are specially designed for inkjet ink. The significance of these papers is that they are thicker than the regular plain papers and have a smooth-surfaced coating.

Let us move on to the different types of inks that you can use in inkjet printers.

What Are The Different Types of Inks For Inkjet Printers?

The ink used in printers typically comprises pigment-based ink, dye-based ink, solvent ink, lubricants, etc. However, there are some printer models that have combination ink cartridges. Below are the different types of inks for your inkjet printers:

  1. Pigment-based Ink
  2. Solvent Ink
  3. Ultraviolet (UV) Ink
  4. Dye-based Ink

1. Pigment-based Ink

The pigment-based ink usually comes in the form of a powder, which you need to suspend to liquid form. This pigment-based ink evaporates and gives an attractive look to the printed document. Such kind of ink is ideal for printing professional photos and printing labels with full colour details. The other significant feature of pigment-based ink is that it resists UV light, which a dye-based one does not.

2. Solvent Ink

The solvent ink has similarities to pigment-based ink. However, the only distinguishing factor is that the former makes use of volatile organic compounds. Moreover, this ink gets dried faster as it evaporates and hence gives high-speed print results. The other characteristic feature of solvent ink is that you can use it on surfaces like banners and billboards.

3. Ultraviolet Ink

Unlike other inks, ultraviolet ink compromises both powder and liquid. It has polymer powder and also monomer liquid. The ultimate result you get upon combining is an acrylic monomer. Because of this, UV ink is ideal for UV printing.

Unlike other inks that evaporate, UV ink does not. Instead, it exposes to UV light that leads to a chemical reaction. This ensures the printing of high-quality images and also labels.

4. Dye-based ink

Different from other types of inks, dye-based ink includes colorants that liquefy into deionized water. You can find the applications of dye-based ink for industrial purposes for daily use. The most significant feature of a dye-based ink is that it produces high-quality labels, and hence it is preferred by most businesses.

What are “Page-width format” and “Wide-format”? What is the difference between them?

Page-width format refers to the print that has a width of about 8.5 inches to 37 inches. The wide-format refers to a print having a width of about 2.4 inches to 15 inches.

Each format has a specific use. You use page-width format for heavy-duty printing needs of businesses like newspapers, catalogs, etc. Similarly, the wide-format is especially for medium-duty printings needs like advertising graphics. This type is mostly used by engineers for some minor designs.

You can find some professional inkjet printers that come with both page-width and wide-format printing.

How To Clean The Nozzles Of Printheads?

When you do not use your printer for a long period, the nozzles of the printhead are subject to clogging. This is because the ink gets dried, and eventually, the nozzles become clogged. But, how to clear these clogged nozzles? Do not worry! This is how you can do.

You can use a small quantity of isopropyl alcohol to treat the nozzles and, thereby, clear them. The other way is using syringes. You can force them through the tiny opening to unclog them. However, remember that you need to be very cautious when doing so. Also, you need to take some precautions.

If you want your printer to keep running smoothly, you need to follow a regular cleaning and maintenance routine. In addition to this, you should operate your device at least once in a while rather than keeping it idle for a longer period. This prevents the nozzles from getting clogged and further minimizes the chances of clogging.


I hope this ultimate guide on the working of inkjet printers gave you complete insights into how they work. If you are unaware of the working mechanism, you might have now got a clear understanding of the same. This article should explain everything related to how an inkjet printer works. Furthermore, it should even clear all your doubts and confusions on the printers.

If you find this information helpful in knowing everything about inkjet printers, let us know in the comments below. Also, please share it with your friends if you want them to know about the valuable info.

If you have any more questions or need more information on inkjet printers, feel free to let us know. We will provide you with all the details and clarify all your doubts at the earliest.

Do not hesitate to share your feedback with us by letting us know if we missed out on any points. Please feel free to add your inputs to this article. We value your suggestion and would like to learn from you.

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