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A History of Thermal Inkjet Printers

And the Benefits Thermal Inkjet Printers Provide

inkjet printer, inkjet history

Starting with Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, we have been searching for the best way to share printed information. Many people have at least one printer in their home or access to a printer at work or a local store, but we often take these genius little machines for granted. Even fewer are aware of how the most common printing technology, thermal inkjet, works. A quick overview of the technology can create an appreciation for the beauty of this everyday machine and help you make the best out of your printing needs.

How Thermal Inkjet Printers Work

While the printing press used by Gutenberg relied on applying pressure to transfer ink from an inked surface to paper, thermal inkjet printers use heat to print. It can be easier to visualize how thermal inkjet printers by beginning with another (and, in our humble opinion, infinitely cooler) name for the technology: Bubble Jet. The printing apparatus for thermal inkjet printers are made of ink cartridges—those “Black”, “Cyan”, “Magenta” and “Yellow” things that feel like you are constantly replacing—and tiny nozzles. Depending on the printer, there can be anywhere between 300-600 individual nozzles. These nozzles heat the ink inside the cartridge, forming it into a bubble. The ink from the bubble is pushed through the nozzle onto the printing material. When the bubble collapses, the ink is applied and the nozzle sucks in more ink; ready to create another bubble.

Where Thermal Inkjet Printers Came From

inkjet printer, inkjet history

Thermal inkjet printers are the result of centuries of technology and there were many steps between Gutenberg’s workshop in Germany to thermal inkjet printers lining the walls of packaging factories and sitting comfortably in your home office. Inventions like the typewriter (patented in 1868) and the dot matrix printer (first commercially available in 1957) have paved the way. All through this time, business owners and regular people were looking for affordable printing options.

With the advent of the computer in the 1950s, there was a need to reproduce digital images on a physical medium. This included books, magazines, bar codes, billboards, packaging, and more. It is hard to pinpoint the exact inventor of the thermal inkjet printer because there were many teams at several companies (including Canon, HP, and Epson) developing the technology at the same time. What we do know is in 1984, HP introduced the “ThinkJet” after several years of product development. They were quickly followed by Canon’s BJ-80 less than a year later.

The Benefits of Thermal Inkjet Printers

inkjet printer, inkjet history

As with every type of printing technology, there are benefits and disadvantages for thermal inkjet printers. Fortunately, the pros of thermal inkjet printing vastly outweigh the cons. For many consumers, and a majority of business owners, thermal inkjet printers are a great solution. These benefits include high quality at a high cost, efficiency, and compact size. Even better, almost everyone can operate an inkjet printer with little to no training.

Drawbacks for thermal inkjet printers arise when printing in large quantities. Thermal inkjet printers are typically quite precise, but they can smudge if the ink comes into contact with water or moisture before fully drying. One final issue is they can require maintenance and on rare occasions, the nozzles can be blocked with dried ink. The solution for blockages can be as simple as applying rubbing alcohol but can require a dedicated professional to properly clean the machine.


GCB Solutions has the packaging industry experience to help you through shifting trends. Whether you are beginning the design process or looking to make that final push to launch, we can help.

Call us at (904) 263-2804 or schedule a free consultation, today!


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