Get the perfect print every time by choosing the right printer for the job
Multi-function printers (MFPs) typically provide print, copy, scan and fax capabilities from a single device. Also known as all-in-ones (AIOs), multi-function copiers (MFCs) and multi-function devices (MFDs), they are available in both laser and inkjet models. MFPs are usually categorised according to their intended use. For home use, inkjets are considered better because they print longer-lasting photographs, while for office use a laser-class printer is more effective due to the volumes and types of material being printed.
MFPs for the office need to be able to fax and e-mail, and should include an automatic document feeder (ADF) that allows users to scan, copy, fax and e-mail multi-page documents.
However, these basic functions are not always straightforward. Some MFPs can only scan documents over a USB connection, while others need a computer to be on for the printer to make copies. This is problematic if you plan to connect over a network, or use the machine as a stand-alone copier.
Not all MFPs include a fax-to-PC function, which allows you to fax documents directly from your PC without having to print them first. E-mail features also come in two forms: direct e-mail scans and sends an e-mail directly to your Internet service provider (ISP) or an in-house email server on your network; while other MFPs require you to open an e-mail message on a PC and add the scanned document as an attachment.
Most MFPs include a flatbed suitable for scanning photos or single-sheet documents. An ADF allows for the easy scanning of multi-page documents in duplex (both sides of the page).
Connecting to an MFP can be done via a USB port, Ethernet connection or WiFi connection. Some printers now include WiFi Direct, which allows compatible devices to connect with them without needing a wireless access point. A few of the newer models offer near-field communication (NFC), which allows you to initiate printing from a compatible mobile device simply by tapping the printer with the phone or tablet.
The space-saving design of an MFP can benefit small offices, negating the need for multiple cumbersome devices and masses of cables. This can save companies money in the long run.
The main disadvantage of an MFP is that if a printing problem occurs, other functionalities of the device, such as the copier or fax machine, become inaccessible.
Continuous ink system printers
Continuous ink system printers, also known as ink tank printers, are printers that deliver large volumes of liquid ink to a comparatively small inkjet print–head, negating the need for ink cartridges. The ink source in a printer that uses a continuous flow system is placed outside the printing device. A set of printing bottles are attached via plastic tubes to the machine’s print-head.
This helps businesses to increase printing capacity at a lower price point.
Continuous ink system printers have a number of advantages:
- Low-cost – this printing system is budget friendly, making printing available to a range of users from students and professionals.
- Economical – it is efficient and affordable for businesses who want to print high volumes of documents.
- Good value – documents are printed efficiently and ink supply is not wasted unnecessarily.
- Easy to refill – users just need to connect the ink bottles to the ink containers outside the printer in order to refill the ink tanks. However, it is important to note that using inferior quality ink will clog up the sensitive print-head, and possibly void the manufacturer’s warranty.
These types of printers offer the same connectivity options as other modern printers.
Wireless printers are classified as any printers in the work environment which are connected to a network rather than being connected to workers’ computers with cables. Most often, the printer is connected to a large area network (LAN) via WiFi, but some models can also connect via Bluetooth. Staff computers are also connected to the network, and messages are passed from the computers to the printer in this way.
Almost all types of printers come in wireless varieties, including thermal printers, laser printers, inkjet printers and even modern impact (dot matrix) printers.
There are a number of advantages to wireless printing – the most obvious being that there are no wires. Wireless printers eliminate the need for inconvenient (and sometimes dangerous) cabling. No time, effort or money needs to be spent on connecting computers to printers, or the subsequent cable management thereof.
Another advantage of wireless printing is that the machine can serve more than one staff member at a time. Print jobs can be easily queued and printed quickly, rather than each staff member needing to physically plug their computer into the communal printer.
Wireless printers can save businesses money. Apart from the fact that they negate the need for sharing a printer via a cable, they also negate the need for each person (or group of people) to have access to an individual printer. They also feed into managed print services (MPS), helping businesses keep track of what is printed, when, where and how often. This further promotes cost savings.
Mobile printing is considered to be the process of sending data to a printer wirelessly from a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Wireless printers mean office workers can easily print on-the-go – from any networked device, and any place that has sight of the network. This boosts productivity, ensuring that employees can print things quickly and move on with their tasks, rather than standing around waiting for their turn at the printer.
There are, however, disadvantages associated with networked printers. They can reduce the speed of your wireless network, resulting in slow communication times, especially if the office is large and there are many devices tethered to one network.
They can have problems seeing the network, and intermittently disconnect themselves from it. This means a wireless printer will need to be rebooted more often than a traditional, wired printer does.
Consumers also report that wireless printers jam more often than traditional ones, and that they often experience compatibility problems when using multiple platforms (such as Windows and Mac OS).
Mobile or portable printers are small, lightweight printers that are used by field workers and people on the move. They cover a range of printers, including photo printers, receipt printers and label printers. In the case of field work, mobile printers are rugged and durable, resistant to dust, moisture, temperature extremes and drops. They can be worn on the body by means of a strap or a belt clip. Portable printers are used to great effect in the retail, warehousing, hospitality and medical environments.
Mobile printers have a number of advantages: they increase productivity; reduce operating costs; improve cash flow and revenues; and enhance customer retention in a competitive market.
This is due in large part to the fact that portable printers eliminate the need for handwritten forms, so more accurate, legible documents are produced. Customers can review charges before the field worker leaves the premises, resolving potential billing disputes. Administrative costs are reduced, and cash flow is improved. Route maps and driving directions can be printed for workers on the road. Customers can be provided with updated receipts and future orders can be logged. Inventory and tracking is improved, while processing time and errors are minimised.
Mobile printers use cabled or wireless connectivity to receive print jobs from a mobile computer or other device. Mobile printers are quickly becoming wireless, although the type of connectivity they offer differs.
3D printing or additive manufacturing is the process of making three-dimensional, solid objects from a digital design file. Additive manufacturing occurs when successive layers of material are laid down in a particular pattern, in order to create an object. 3D printing is used for a range of applications, from fashion and medicine to toys and food.
The process of 3D printing begins with a computer-aided design (CAD) file, containing the original concept of the object, modelled digitally. This creates a virtual blueprint of the object to be printed. 3D printing software divides the object into digital cross-sections which act as a guide so that the printer is able to build it layer by layer.
After the finished design file is sent to the 3D printer, you can choose the material to print in. The types of material you can choose will be determined by the kind of 3D printer you have. Some can print in rubber, plastic, paper and even food (such as chocolate).
Your chosen material is sprayed or squeezed from the printer onto a platform.
The 3D printer makes passes (much like an inkjet printer) over the platform, depositing layer upon layer of material to create the object in the design file.
Depending on the size and complexity of the object, this can take several hours or even days.
The different layers are automatically fused together to create a single three-dimensional object in a dots per inch (DPI) resolution.
Although the possibilities of 3D printing seem endless, there have been a number of controversies surrounding the technology. One such example occurred in 2013, when a pro-arms group published the design files for a fully-functioning gun that could be printed on a 3D printer.