How to Select Computer Printers and PlottersHow to Select Computer Printers and Plotters    How to Select Computer Printers and Plotters

Image Credit: Digi-Key Corporation|TES Electrical Electronic Corp.|Compuworld


Computer printers and plotters are used to output industrial data in printed form. In terms of applications, some computer printers and plotters are used in computer-aided design (CAD), geographical information system (GIS) mapping, or point-of-sale (POS) systems. Other computer printers and plotters are used to produce bar codes, labels, forms, receipts, mail pieces (envelopes), checks, financial documents, or identification cards (ID cards).


Types of Computer Printers and Plotters


There are several different types of products.

  • Direct thermal printers use heat to set sharp, crisp images on non-curling, smudge-proof, heavy-stock thermal paper.
  • Thermal transfer printers use heat and pressure to transfer resin-based ink from tiny ribbons directly onto the paper.
  • Ink jet printers spray droplets of ink through a nozzle onto the page.
  • Laser printers use a laser beam to produce an image on a drum. The light of the laser alters the electrical charge of the drum, which is rolled through a reservoir of toner. Through a combination of heat and pressure, the toner is then transferred to the paper.
  • Liquid crystal display (LCD) and light emitting diode (LED) devices are similar to laser printers, but use LCDs or LEDs to produce an image on the drum.
  • Dot matrix printers strike pins against an ink ribbon to print closely-spaced dots, often with multi-page forms.
  • Line printers use the same technology as dot matrix devices, but are much faster for greater workloads.
  • Other unlisted, specialized, or proprietary computer printers and plotters are also available. 




Specifications for computer printers and plotters include:


Mounting Options

There are four basic mounting styles: panel-mounted, rack-mounted, stand-alone, and portable or handheld.


Media Handing Style

Choices for media handling style include single-sheet, fan-fold, and roll. Often, computer printers and plotters that output single sheets of paper have several trays for different paper sizes. Printing and plotting equipment that is designed for fan-fold paper is designed to prints on paper made from a web and folded lengthwise or crosswise like a fan.



Resolution and printing width are important performance specifications to consider when selecting computer printers and plotters. Printer resolution is usually measured in dots per inch (dpi). As a rule, more dpi means a higher resolution.


Printing Width

Printing width, another important parameter, measures the width of the characters produced by the printer, not the width of the print media.



Computer printers and plotters differ in terms of interface, memory, and applications. There are four major interface styles: serial, parallel, ethernet, and universal serial bus (USB).



Choices for memory include: random access memory (RAM); Flash memory; and erasable, programmable read-only memory (EPROM).



Features for computer printers and plotters include user controls, indicators, application software, cutters, and metal housing.





Related Products & Services

  • Barcode Printers

    Barcode printers are used to output barcode data in printed form.

  • Industrial Printing Equipment

    Industrial printing equipment includes screen printers, pad printers and offset printers. These devices are used for applying inks and colors to packaging cartons, web or sheet material and other packaging supplies.

  • Ink Jet Printers

    Ink jet printers project electrically charged droplets of ink onto a page. Types of ink jet printers include thermal and piezo.

  • Kiosk and POS Printers

    Kiosk and POS printers are used with kiosks and point-of-sale (POS) systems such as electronic cash registers (ECR) and electronic funds transfer (EFT) devices.

  • Label Printers

    Label printers are used to print a variety of labels or adhesive stamps. Most label printers are capable of printing bar codes.

  • Laser Printers

    Laser printers use a laser beam to produce an image on a drum that is rolled through a reservoir of toner. The beam is picked up by the charged portions of the drum to fuse the image onto paper.

  • Marking and Engraving Equipment

    Marking and engraving equipment marks or engraves products and packages with bar codes, lot codes, date stamps, graphics, labels, and other information. Marks are applied during the manufacturing process, eliminating the need to generate labels or papers for subsequent application.