What's the Differences Between Ink and Toner?
When deciding between ink and toner, consider your printing needs, printer type, and personal preferences. Ink and toner offer distinct benefits for specific printing scenarios, so choosing the right one for your office will greatly improve your printing efficiency.
Ink and toner ultimately serve the same purpose: High-quality printing. However, ink and toner differ in how they print and which kinds of printers they require. Depending on your printing goals, one may be more beneficial to you than the other.
What is Ink?
Ink is a liquid made of carbon black and used in inkjet printers.
Inkjet printers apply ink to paper by spraying it through tiny nozzles on a printhead as the paper moves through the printer. These printers can use black ink, or color ink contained in several distinct cartridges within the printer (cyan, magenta, and yellow).
Inkjet printers are great for printing text documents, images, and graphics in small quantities. This makes them the printer type of choice for most people’s home offices. However, due to their compact size and their cartridges’ limited page yield (the number of text-filled pages a cartridge can print before running out of ink), printer ink cartridges need to be refilled or swapped out more frequently than toner cartridges in laser printers.
What is Toner?
Toner is a fine powder made of polyester and used in laser printers.
Laser printers use static electricity and heat to stick the toner to paper. The static electricity is controlled by a laser, which designs a template based on a page’s layout and impresses it onto a metal drum within the printer. Once printing begins, the toner is released and sticks to the electrically-charged areas of the drum. The paper then passes over the drum and the toner adheres to its surface with the help of heated rollers.
Laser printers are ideal for printing text documents in large quantities, because their page yield is high and their print speed is fast. They are most commonly used in office buildings wherein multiple people need to print text documents frequently and in rapid succession. For home offices, you can buy consumer-grade laser printers, but they usually only print in black (color costs extra).
Difference in Cost Between Ink and Toner
As we discussed in the previous section, inkjet and laser printers are designed for different usages. Inkjet printers are best for printing in small quantities (such as from your home office), whereas laser printers can print large quantities of documents quickly (which is great for businesses).
An inkjet printer costs less upfront than a laser printer, but the cost of ink cartridges over time makes inkjet printers more expensive than laser printers, since you don’t need to buy toner cartridges as frequently. That’s the biggest difference between ink and toner - the cost over time. If you think you’ll be printing text documents a lot, then buying a laser printer and toner will save you money in the long run. If you’re like most people though, a standard inkjet printer will fulfill all of your printing needs.
The cost of ink and toner cartridges is determined by the difference in their page yields. Page yields are described as “standard,” “high,” and “super high” (or “ultra high”) based on the quantity of text-filled pages a single cartridge can print. The higher a cartridge’s page yield, the higher its cost.
Here are some common page yields for ink and toner cartridges:
- Standard ink cartridge: 200-300 pages
- Standard toner cartridge: 2,000-3,000 pages
- High yield ink cartridge: 600-1,000 pages
- High yield toner cartridge: 8,000-10,000 pages
Difference in Longevity Between Ink and Toner
There’s not much difference between ink and toner cartridge maintenance. There are, however, many ways to ensure your ink or toner lasts longer, and there are many internal components to repair or replace. Maintaining the health of certain essential printing components in either your inkjet or laser printer, will improve the longevity of your ink or toner.
Here are the most important components for printing in inkjet and laser printers...
The printhead is the part of an inkjet printer responsible for distributing the ink onto each page. It contains tiny nozzles from which ink sprays onto the paper as it rolls through the printer. Keeping those nozzles clean will ensure that your inkjet printer’s printhead continues functioning efficiently. If ink spills out of the nozzles, it can dry and build up, covering the nozzle opening and potentially clogging the printhead. Maintaining a clean printhead is the best way to improve the longevity of your inkjet printer.
The drum of a laser printer transfers toner to paper inside the machine. Because of this, the cleanliness of your printer’s drum has a direct impact on print quality. If the drum is scratched or dented, it’s best to repair it right away, so that your print quality is not affected. Unfortunately for laser printer owners, the drum becomes scratched and dented naturally over time due to continual usage, so it will eventually need to be replaced.
A laser printer’s transfer rolls, along with the drum, help transfer toner onto paper. They also prevent unused toner powder (from the print process) from collecting inside the machine. If too much unused toner collects inside your printer, the transfer rolls will need to be thoroughly cleaned or replaced.
A fuser unit uses heat to help toner transfer to paper, in addition to the static electricity from the drum. And like the drum, the fuser unit gets scratched and dented over time. Occasional cleaning of the fuser unit will ensure that print quality remains satisfactory.
Both ink and toner will provide excellent print quality, so long as you maintain your printer and cartridges. The differences between ink and toner come from how they print and which benefits their respective printing processes offer.
For most people, who occasionally print text documents or color images from their home office, an inkjet printer will suffice. But for someone who prints text documents more frequently and in bulk, a laser printer will better suit their printing needs.