Posts Tagged 'printer cartridge'

How Inkjet Printers Work: A Look at the Components

Inkjet printers are all around us and used every day to create a vast array of projects from important documentation to photographs taken just prior. An inkjet printer works by creating extremely small droplets of ink and jetting them onto a substrate or surface passing through the printer. The jet of ink droplets is guided by a series of nozzles contained in printheads and release to create a specific pattern based off layouts given to the printer from a computer or other digital device. Small electrical impulses will trigger the ink cartridges to release or eject ink at the appropriate times, forming dots onto the media and eventually creating images and texts. The inkjet printer will be able to handle simple layouts such as text documents and extremely complex layouts that have details challenging resolution capabilities. Inkjet printers are the most common type of household printer because they generally have a quiet operation and can produce photograph quality results.

What components are needed and how do they work?

Inkjet printers have a lot of internal components that affect the overall quality, speed, reliability, and durability of the printer and its ink cartridges. To better understand how the printer works, an understanding of what components are needed, what their functions are, and how they interact with each other is needed.

The Ink Cartridge

Ink cartridges or inkjet cartridges are the starting point and most recognized component in an inkjet printer, as they are the only component that must be replaced when the ink runs out. There are several different types of ink cartridges and they vary greatly depending on the printer model and manufacturer intended for. Ink cartridges can contain black ink only, black and color ink in a single cartridge, just color inks in a single cartridge, or separate cartridges for each individual color. Many photograph printers will even have light cyan and light magenta cartridges to provide life-like tonality on photograph printouts. The main purpose of the ink cartridge is to house the colorant or ink, until being released into the printheads.

Printheads

The Ink cartridges are directly connected with printheads or contain their own printheads built-into the cartridge. The Printhead is where all the magic happens inside the machine and is the component responsible for guiding the ink onto the page. A printhead consists of a series of tiny nozzles that are used to jet out or spray the aqueous ink solution from the cartridges to the piece of media passing through the printer.

When separate from the ink cartridges, printheads are the component that you snap the ink cartridges into when replacing ink. They look a lot like a trough or sunken in bench with small round protrusions arising into the ink cartridges. The round protrusions will insert into the cartridges when snapping them into place opening a passageway for the ink to travel down during the printing process.

An ink cartridge that contains its own printhead will rest at the bottom of the cartridge and looks like a computer chip or smoothed metal contact filled with tiny circuits and groves. Both printheads, separate and included, are responsible for letting the cartridge know when and where to release the ink.

Control Circuitry

In order to figure out the precise mathematics of when to release ink and when to hold back ink, a Control Circuit is interposed between the printer driver from the host computer and the printer itself. The circuit will actually control where energy is distributed amongst the chip and where to remove current flow. This will cause the ink cartridge to open or close particular nozzles to either start jetting ink out or to stop the flow of ink.

The printer driver on the host computer will translate images and text documents into a mathematical map or grid known as bitmap. The process of translating the images from a computer to a grid is known as the Raster Image Process. This lets the printhead Control Circuit know when to energize a specific spot on the circuit, releasing the ink and when to de-energize an area to stop the flow.

Stepper Motors

A Stepper Motor will rapidly move the printheads and the ink cartridges back and forth inside the machine and across the width of the media passing over every portion of the paper.  The Stepper Motor also has a secondary job of putting the rollers in motion during the printing process. This is achieved in a number of ways from belts to meshing gears, a common way to get multiple parts moving. The purpose of the Stepper Motor is to transform received electrical power into motion, which is basically making the internal components move.

Stabilizer Bar

Included with the printheads is a Stabilizing Bar that evenly distributes force on the printheads when they are in motion, moving quickly back and forth along the media. As the printheads and ink cartridges rapidly move back and forth, the inner particles are pulled from one side to the other. Similar to being in a car that is taking a sharp turn, the centripetal force will push you to one side of the vehicle. The Stabilizing bar helps to keep the cartridges at a steady angle to eliminate or reduce this effect. This will help keep the ink formulations from clotting or collecting in one location of the cartridge.

Belt

A belt is also one of the components found inside an inkjet printer. Just like the belts used in car motors, the printer belt is used to rotate additional parts. A belt is generally banded to a rotating component on a motor and stretched to wrap around other components that need to rotate. When the motor is powered on, a magnet will rapidly start rotating inside the motor causing external components on the motor to also spin or rotate. The belt uses the spinning force of the motor to spin or rotate the other parts that need to move.

In the inkjet printer, the belt is connected to the printhead assembly from the stepper motor, in order to move the ink cartridges back and forth inside the machine. Belts can also be used to assist the rollers found inside printers.

Rollers

The purpose of the rollers is very simple. They are used to carry or drive a piece of media (usually paper) through the printer. The rollers will grab a piece of media from the top of the stack placed inside the designated Input Tray and will transport that piece of media underneath the printheads and ink cartridges before ejecting the finished printout to the Output Tray. Some office inkjet printers that have Automatic Duplex capabilities can even have rollers that drive the media back through the printer to expose the reverse substrate underneath the printheads to create two-sided printouts.

Paper Trays

Another very recognizable component of the printer is the Paper Trays. Typically Inkjet printers will have a single Input Tray located at the top or back of the printer and a single Output Tray located in the front of the machine. Another common tray configuration is to have the Input Tray and Output Tray conflated into a single front-feeding tray. When both are used as one tray, such as with the HP PSC series printers, the tray will usually have small mounting members on either side of the tray to elevate the printed material from entering back through the printer. These also act as guides when loading new media into the Tray and as a divider between the Input and Output sections of the tray.

Power Supply

To supply power to the stepper motor and control circuitry a standard power supply has been incorporated into the printer. The purpose of the power supply is to convert the alternating current (AC) from a wall outlet to more controllable direct current (DC), needed to operate the stepper motors and circuitry inside printers. The power supply is also responsible for lighting up and energizing additional features such as display screens and scanning equipment.

Interface Ports

Also included with inkjet printers are ports that allow users to connect and transfer digital data between devices. The most common printer interface is the Hi-Speed USB 2.0 port which was created to outperform the older IEE Parallel interfaces. The Hi-speed USB 2.0 ports also broaden the range of external peripherals or devices that can be connected with the printer. The Interface ports main purpose is to provide a means to transfer data (usually text documents and images) from the computer to the printer and vice versa.

Photograph inkjet printers will typically have compatible media card slots as well, that allow users to walk-up and plug media cards and flash drives directly into the printer to print the files and photographs on the card without needing a computer.

These are the main components that can affect the output quality, durability, and performance of an inkjet printer and its ink cartridges. Hopefully this will help you identify and possibly prevent or fix any issues that are occurring with your machine.

Inside the Ink Cartridge

Most of us use printers in our everyday lives, whether it’s at work, home, or even in libraries and schools. Printers have long been a part of our culture, revolutionizing how we received news, how advertisers were able to relay messages, how stories and lessons were able to be recorded on a wide scale, and much more. The first printers were complex machines with a numerous variety of components and attachments and needed constant monitoring. Now, we see a printer and immediately know how to operate them, how to change the ink cartridges, and how to give them a proper supply of power. In general, these machines and their accompanying cartridges are pretty familiar and very simple to use, although we seldom look at what is really happening inside the ink cartridge during the printing process.

The ink cartridge, although it looks uncomplicated and easily slides in and out of the printer when replacing the ink, is actually an intricate component with several moving, conducting, charging, and supporting pieces that make up a single ink cartridge.

The main components of every cartridge are the sump or receptacle portion which expels the ink and the peripheral walls, encasing the cartridge and giving the object its recognizable, rectangular shape (in most cases, although each manufacturer varies). These also happen to be the biggest and most prevalent pieces as they hold and protect the ink from spilling inside the printer.  The sump is also responsible for responding to and supporting the print heads, which act as a funnel to jet ink through to the media. The sump and the walls together, also make up a reservoir for the ink to rest in.

On the diametrically opposed side of the sump portion, designers usually include a small handle with a knurled surface to facilitate the insertion and removal of the ink cartridge. This basically means the cartridge has a protruding handle at the top and in the back of the unit for users to more easily handle the cartridge.  Along with an added handle, the outer portion also contains stabilizing protrusions or datum features at the bottom of the cartridge (much like a stand or feet) to accurately align the cartridge in the printer.

At the bottom of the unit, a small hole known as the charging opening is also created into the frame or wall which grants access to the ink reservoir. This is where the ink is initially filled when being put together by the assembling machine.

In between the sump portion and the framing walls of the cartridge lies a recessed region which bisects the cartridge. These recessed regions taper off to angled edges known as the chamfers. The chamfers main purpose is to correctly position media when the media is passing by the sump portion of the cartridge. The sump is actually two laterally spaced plates, each with smooth metal faces and ribbed groves on the inner section of the plates to ensure the print head is adhesively secured (or connected) to the cartridge.

A flexible circuit board or flexible member is then added to the cartridge, situated on the sump portion and part of the peripheral wall portion. The circuit board is a crucial piece to the cartridge supporting electrical traces that provide power to an actuating mechanism and delivering electrical impulses to the necessary components inside the cartridge. An electrical impulse will be regulated then distributed to “pogo” pins, a piezo crystal, or an electrical resistance heating material (such as thermal inks) to expel the droplets out of the chamber and through the print head nozzles.

To supply power to the flexible circuit board, a series of “pogo” pins in the ink trough of a printer will touch the conductor strips on the circuit board of the cartridge, creating a pathway for electricity to travel through. Sometimes chips are also added onto cartridges to count the number of pages printed with a particular cartridge and to help big corporations and brand name manufacturers regulate and ultimately monopolize the ink markets.

These are generally the main pieces involved when comprising an ink cartridge, although each manufacturer and each printer series has their own versions, additions, and arrangements of ink cartridge compositions.


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