7.5. Other Printer Types

There are other types of printers available, mostly special-purpose printers for professional graphics or publishing organizations. These printers are not for general purpose use, however. Because they are relegated to niche uses, their prices (both one-time and recurring consumables costs) tend to be higher relative to more mainstream units.

Thermal Wax Printers

These printers are used mostly for business presentation transparencies and for color proofing (creating test documents and images for close quality inspection before sending off master documents to be printed on industrial four-color offset printers). Thermal wax printers use sheet-sized, belt driven CMYK ribbons and specially-coated paper or transparencies. The printhead contains heating elements that melt each wax color onto the paper as it is rolled through the printer.

Dye-Sublimation Printers

Used in organizations such as service bureaus — where professional quality documents, pamphlets, and presentations are more important than consumables costs — dye-sublimation (or dye-sub) printers are the workhorses of quality CMYK printing. The concepts behind dye-sub printers are similar to thermal wax printers except for the use of diffusive plastic dye film instead of colored wax. The printhead heats the colored film and vaporizes the image onto specially coated paper.

Dye-sub is quite popular in the design and publishing world as well as the scientific research field, where preciseness and detail are required. Such detail and print quality comes at a price, as dye-sub printers are also known for their high costs-per-page.

Solid Ink Printers

Used mostly in the packaging and industrial design industries, solid ink printers are prized for their ability to print on a wide variety of paper types. Solid ink printers, as the name implies, use hardened ink sticks that that are melted and sprayed through small nozzles on the printhead. The paper is then sent through a fuser roller which further forces the ink onto the paper.

The solid ink printer is ideal for prototyping and proofing new designs for product packages; as such, most service-oriented businesses would not have a need for this type of printer.