In the personal and small business computer market, inkjet printers are currently in the majority. Inkjet printers are typically inexpensive, quiet, reasonably fast, and many can produce quite a high quality printed document.
The modern-day inkjet printer has built on the progress and technology made by many earlier versions. Many manufacturers, such as Hewlett-Packard and Canon can claim a substantial share of the credit for the development of the present-day inkjet. In today's consumer market, four manufacturers have captured the majority of inkjet printer sales: Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Epson, and Lexmark.
Compared to earlier printers, ink jets have a number of advantages. They are quieter in operation than dot matrix printer or daisywheel printers. They can print finer, cleaner and smoother details with higher resolution (smaller print head orifices giving smaller ink droplets), and many ink jet printers with realistic-quality color printing are available and widely used for picture printing.
In comparison to more expensive technologies like thermal transfer printer, dye-sublimation printers, and laser printers, ink jets have the advantage of almost no warm-up and a lower printing cost per page (except when compared with laser-printers).
The disadvantages of inkjets include fragile print heads (easy clogging) and expensive ink cartridges (sometimes costing US$30 - $40 or more). This usually leads value-minded users to think about laser printers for medium-to-high volume printing applications.
A common business method for inkjet printer manufacturers involves selling the actual printer at or even below production cost, while dramatically marking up the price of the (proprietary) ink cartridges. One company, for example, was able to cover the entire 12-month losses incurred by their other division with the profits made by their consumable inkjet cartridge division, and have money left over.
Alternatives for inkjet users are cheaper copies of cartridges, produced by non-OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer, the printer manufacturer) companies, and/or refilling ink cartridges themselves, from special ink refill kits, which are for sale. Because of the large differences in pricing due to large OEM profit mark-ups, there are many companies specializing in producing these types of generic ink cartridges. Most printer manufacturers discourage refilling disposable cartridges. Aside from the obvious cost reasons, the heating elements in thermal cartridges often burn out when the ink supply is gone, and can permanently damage the print head. This is one of the warnings you will find on ink refill kits, "Do not refill a completely empty cartridge."
Inkjet printer users can save quite a bit of money by using compatible generic cartridges or re-filling kits such as those available at several online suppliers.
Another disadvantage includes ink bleeding, where the ink is carried sideways away from the desired location by the capillary action along the fibre of the paper; the result is a muddy or smudged appearance on some types of paper. Most ink jet printer manufacturers also sell a specially treated paper designed to reduce bleeding, but such paper is comparatively expensive and sometimes has a peculiar feel or texture.
As the ink used in most inkjets is water-soluble, care must be taken with inkjet printed documents to avoid spilling even a drop of water on the paper. This can cause severe "blurring" or "running." Highlighter markers should not be used with such documents either because the moisture of the highlighting ink can cause the printing to smudge or blur.
For a fast, inexpensive way of printing your documents, inkjet printers may be the answer. Be sure to analyze your application to select the best printer for the quality and quantity of printing to be done.