What Is an Impact Printer?

continuous printer in office

We spend a lot of time talking about inkjet and laser printers. We even share a good bit of information about 3D printers. There’s one type of printer that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention anymore, though: the impact printer. An impact printer is, as the name suggests, a type of printer that creates text on paper using impact. It works by striking a plastic or metal head against an ink ribbon. When the ink ribbon contacts the paper, it leaves behind the appropriate character, symbol, dot or line. Some of the most common types of impact printers include dot matrix, ball printers and daisy-wheel printers. While they are still used in some situations, impact printers have largely fallen out of use in favor of non-impact machines.

Types of Impact Printers and How They Work

Dot matrix is the most well-known type of impact printing. These printers work by striking a grid of pins against an ink ribbon. Different characters and symbols are created using various pin combinations.

Daisy-wheel printers feature a circular wheel with “petals.” Each of these petals features a different character or symbol. The wheel is rotated to the appropriate petal, and then a hammer strikes the petal against the ink ribbon and the paper to print the desired character or symbol.

Ball printers are similar to daisy-wheel printers. They feature a spherical ball that has raised characters and symbols on the outside. The ball is spun to the correct character to print each character on the page.

Advantages of Impact Printers

Impact printers were introduced in the mid-1980s. At the time, they provided a means of printing that was accessible to consumers. Today, they are not widely used due to the availability and affordability of non-impact inkjet and laser printers that operate quieter and provide drastically improved print quality.

Still, there are a few advantages to choosing an impact printer. For starters, they are the most affordable printing technology on the market. Their simple nature makes the devices inexpensive, and they offer the lowest possible cost per page due to the low cost of ink ribbons as compared to inkjet cartridges and laser toner.

They are also extremely reliable and are well-known for their ability to work in harsh environments. Cold, heat, dust and humidity are no match for impact printers even though they could cause more modern non-impact devices to fail. The technology isn’t nearly as delicate as that found in modern printers, and this makes them less prone to operational issues. They also require significantly less maintenance.

Impact printers have an ability to print multi-page documents like carbon copies that is unmatched by inkjets and lasers. They also work well for data-logging because they print on scrolls of paper rather than individual sheets. As a result, they work extremely well in certain business situations.

Impact Printer Disadvantages

holes beside colored continuous paperThere are also several drawbacks to impact printers. They’re extremely noisy when compared to modern printing technologies. They also are incapable of printing high-quality documents. They are only able to print low-resolution graphics, and their color performance is low. In other words, you can’t really use an impact printer to create eye-catching documents that you’ll want to show off.

Impact printers are significantly slower than non-impact models. Winding and aligning single sheets is difficult and doing so manually wastes a lot of time. Sheet feeders are available, but they are unreliable. Paper jams are also common with impact printers and they are often extremely difficult to fix.

While their low cost makes them appealing to those who are working on tight budgets, they are not as convenient and easy to use as modern inkjet and laser printers.

Is an Impact Printer Right for Your Business?

continuous paper dot matrix printerIf you are in the market for a new printer for your business, you may wonder if opting for an impact model is a good idea. In certain industries, they work extremely well. If you need to print scrolls of data rather than individual sheets, a dot matrix or another type of impact machine may suit your needs and allow you to print without spending a ton of money on ink. If you need to print high-quality text or images, though, inkjet or laser is the way to go.

When trying to decide whether an impact printer is right for your business, carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages listed above to ensure that you make a good decision.