Impact printing, also known as dot matrix printing, used to be the predominant type of printer before non-impact printers, like laser printers, were introduced in the mid-1980s. There are actually two types of technology involved with impact printing--fully formed character printing and matrix printing. In the former, the whole character is produced in a single impact; in the latter, the character is produced by a series of impacts that produce dots forming the character as a whole. Although impact printers have fallen out of favor as the most popular printer, there are still many advantages to choosing an impact printer over an inkjet or laser printer.
Impact printers are the lowest-cost printing technology, and recent advancements continue to improve and enhance this. They have both the lowest-cost price per page and the printers themselves tend to be affordable due to the simplicity of the technology, which consists of an actuator impacting ribbon to make a mark on paper.
Impact printers are well-known for their reliability and for their ability to work in harsh conditions and environments, such as heat, cold, humidity and dust, without breaking down. Their technology is less delicate than that of inkjet or laser printers, so they require less maintenance and have operational issues less frequently.
Impact printers' ability to print multi-page documents like forms and carbon copies and their bar-code printing capability is unmatched by lasers and inkjets. Additionally, they are ideal for data-logging because they can use scrolls of paper rather than just single pages. Impact printers can also be used to print on heat-sensitive labels and for condensed printing applications.
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Besides being low maintenance and able to withstand harsher treatment, impact printers have improved performance in particular environments. For example, although their printing quality may be lower than more expensive laser printers, they can print at high speeds. This is an advantage in environments where print quantity is more important the print quality. Also, the ribbon technology employed makes impact printers useful in environments where there is infrequent printing. An impact printer's ribbon does not dry out as quickly as that of other types of printers, so it stays effective longer, even when it is not being used.