Solid ink printers use wax-like ink sticks reminiscent of crayons instead of fluid inks or dry toners. Tektronics, Inc. invented the solid ink printing process in 1986 and introduced the first solid ink printer, the Phaser III, in 1991. This first generation solid ink printer implemented a printing process similar to current day inkjet printers with a printhead that traversed the width of the page then advancing the paper to do the next line. It quickly became clear that a different process was necessary. In 1995, Tektronics developed an indirect printing process where the entire page was printed on a rotating drum then the image is transferred to the paper from the drum. This offset printing method is currently used in today's solid ink printers. In 2000, Xerox acquired Tektronics color printing division. Since Xerox purchase, the solid ink printer has been refined to an economical and speedy alternative to traditional color laser printers.
The printer has a warm-up procedure. At this time the ink-melter and printhead are heated so the solid ink melts to a liquid state. The drum assembly is also heated so that the ink solidifies but is kept in a state that also allows the ink to be transferred to the paper. After the printer warms up the printer is ready to print.
The drum maintence kit cleans the rotating aluminium drum then applies a thin layer of oil to the drum.
The drum assembly then rotates and the heated ink is sprayed on the oil-coated drum.
The paper travels through a preheating unit then between a transfer roller and the drum assembly. The image is transferred from the drum onto the paper with the heat and pressure.
The paper will exit the printer or go through the duplexing unit to print the reverse side of the page repeating these steps
Advantages of solid ink printing:
Excellent Print Quality: The colors are vibrant and consistent. Paper quality has little impact on the print quality. Solid ink printer's single pass printing method do not suffer from registration problems that plague inkjet and laser printers.
Ease to Use: Ink-sticks are manufactured with a specific shaper for each printer and color and can not be installed incorrectly. The paper tray can easily handle an entire ream of paper. Consumables are easy to replace with no mess or risk of spillage.
Environmentally Friendly:Solid ink printers generate up to 95% less waste than typical color laser printers because there is less to through away. Unlike laser printers, solid ink printers do not produce any ozone and do not introduce fine toner particles into the air that may cause cancer.
Warm-up time: Quick warm-up time from standby mode.
Disadvantages of solid ink printing:
Warm-up time: Very long warm-up time from power off. It is recommended for the printer to be left on and for it to go into standby mode when not in use. New models are very efficient in standby mode.
Ink-waste: The printer performs a cleaning cycle when powered on. It is recommended for the printer to be left on and for it to go into standby mode when not in use.
Possible printer damage: The printer can be damaged if moved before it has completely cooled down. Always follow the manufacture's directions before moving a solid ink printer.