As a computer technician, you might be required to purchase, repair, or maintain a printer. The customer might request that you perform the following tasks:
- Select a printer
- Install and configure a printer
- Troubleshoot a printer
The printers available today are usually either laser printers using imaging drums or inkjet printers using electrostatic spray technology. Dot matrix printers using impact technology are used in applications that require carbon copies. Figure 1 shows three types of printers.
Capabilities and Speed
Printer capabilities and speed are factors to consider when selecting a printer. The speed of a printer is measured in pages per minute (ppm). Printer speed varies between makes and models. Speed is also affected by the complexity of the image and the quality desired by the user. For example, a draft quality page of text prints faster than a high-quality page of text. A draft quality image of a color digital photograph prints faster than a photo quality print. Inkjet printers are usually slower, but they are often sufficient for a home or small office.
Color or Black and White
A computer monitor produces colors through the additive mixing of dots that are displayed on the screen. The dots produce the color range using red, green, and blue (RGB) dots. In contrast, a printer produces colors using subtractive mixing. Figure 2 shows a CMYK color wheel. The CMYK color model is a subtractive color model used in color printing. CMYK is the acronym for a color system composed by four colors, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (represented by Key, as a base color).
The choice between a black-and-white printer and a color printer depends on the needs of the customer. If the customer is primarily printing letters and does not need color capability, a black-and-white printer is sufficient and can be less expensive. An elementary school teacher might need a color printer to add excitement to lessons.
The quality of printing is measured in dots per inch (dpi). The larger the dpi number, the better the image resolution. When the resolution is higher, text and images are clearer. To produce the best high-resolution images, use high-quality ink or toner and high-quality paper.
A printer should be reliable. Because so many types of printers are on the market, research the specifications of several printers before selecting one. Here are some manufacturer options to consider:
- Warranty - Identify what is covered within the warranty.
- Scheduled servicing - Servicing is based on expected usage. Usage information is in the documentation or on the manufacturer’s website.
- Mean time between failures (MTBF) - The printer should work without failing for an average length of time. This information is in the documentation or on the manufacturer's website.
Total Cost of Ownership
When buying a printer, there is more than just the initial cost of the printer to consider. The total cost of ownership (TCO) includes a number of factors:
- Initial purchase price
- Cost of supplies, such as paper and ink
- Pages per month
- Price per page
- Maintenance costs
- Warranty costs
When calculating the TCO, consider the amount of printing required and the expected lifetime of the printer.