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Inkjet Printer History

Take a stroll down memory lane; find some key information concerning the history of inkjet printers.




Who invented the inkjet printer

The concept of inkjet printing was first developed in the early 1950s and by the late 1970s inkjet printers could reproduce digital images generated by computer. There was no single inventor; the charge was led by numerous companies including Epson, HP, and Canon.

When was the inkjet printer invented

Although inkjet printers only appeared on the consumer market in the late 1980s, they had been under development for more than twenty years by that time. In the mid-1970s, printer companies realized the potential of the technology that would make dot matrix printers obsolete. The challenge, however, was to come up with a way to create an affordable inkjet printer that would reliably create high-quality printouts.

Technical challenges
The quality of the printed page depends largely on the relationship between the ink, the print head, and the paper. Researchers had a hard time creating a controlled flow of ink from the print head onto the page, and preventing the print head from becoming clogged with dried ink. Once these challenges were met by Canon and Hewlett Packard in the late 1980s, liquid inkjet printers began to come on the market.

Different styles
Continuous inkjet printers were developed by IBM, and use electrically-charged droplets to coat the page with ink very quickly but also waste a lot of ink. This technology never caught on with consumers, but is used today in industrial settings, for labeling cartons and addressing direct mail. The more popular design among consumers is the drop-on-demand inkjet printer, invented by Siemens in 1977. These printers, which spray ink only where needed, are slower than continuous inkjet printers but less expensive. Most drop-on-demand printers, including those made by HP, Canon, and Lexmark, use thermal technology to push the drops of ink out of the print head; Epson uses its own technology, called piezo-electric, to achieve the same effect. The inkjet printer has come a long way since it became available almost twenty years ago: Hewlett Packard's DeskJet printer, which was among the first available to the public, was priced at $1,000 in 1988!

About William Elward

Founder of Castle Ink, William Elward has 20 years experience in the printer industry. He's been featured on CNN Money, Yahoo, PC World, Computer World, and other top publications and frequently blogs about printers and ink cartridges. He's an expert at diagnosing printer issues and has published guides to fixing common printer issues across the internet. A graduate of Bryant University and Columbia's Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program, he's held various leadership positions at The College Board, Bankrate, Zocdoc, and Everyday Health. Follow him on Twitter at William Elward's Twitter Profile