What’s the Cost Difference Between a Laser and an Inkjet Printer?

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Printers come in all different shapes and sizes. However, a key element to consider when weighing printer options, is the method used to print – laser or inkjet. Both printing methods are common choices when printing on standard paper sizes such as letter, legal or tabloid.

Once you better understand the cost advantages and limitations of each type of device, you can make an informed decision about which will be better suited for your printing application.

First, we’ll take a look each printing method. Then, we’ll dive a little deeper to discuss the difference in price between these two types of printers. 

RELATED ARTICLE: What’s the Difference Between Laser and Inkjet Printers? 

What Is a Laser Printer?

A laser printer is a device that takes the data that you’ve sent from your computer and converts it into text and images onto a piece of paper. The printing on the paper is composed of fused toner powder, which is made of pigment and plastic.

Here’s how the laser printing process works:

  1. Use the “print” function on your computer to send your document to the laser printer.
  2. The corona wire inside of the printer will heat up and generate a positive static charge that is transferred to the rotating metal drum. Once the drum receives the electrical charge, a laser is beamed through a series of mirrors and reflected onto the surface of the drum. This laser beam will create an outline of the received data through a negative electrical charge.
  3. With the help of static electricity, the positively charged toner powder will be drawn to and attach with the portions of the drum that are covered with a negative charge. The remainder of the drum will be positively charged; therefore the toner will be repelled from these areas.
  4. As the paper moves through the printer, it will gain a positive charge across the transfer belt. Then, the negatively charged toner will move through the drum, being electrostatically drawn to the paper and will attach in the shape of the outlined text and images.
  5. After printing, the paper travels through a fusing unit which will apply both heat and pressure to melt the toner onto the paper.
  6. Your laser printed page, will emerge at the output of the device. 

What Is an Inkjet Printer?

Similar to a laser printer, an inkjet printer is a device that takes data sent from your computer and converts it into text and images onto a piece of paper. However, the method by which this is accomplished, is quite different.

Inkjet printers spray ink droplets through tiny nozzles that move across the paper as it travels through the device. In a color inkjet printer, the ink blends the cyan, magenta, yellow and/or black ink to produce thousands of different colors. This blending effect works well, especially on photo paper. 

Laser vs. Inkjet: Which Printer is More Cost Effective?

Laser and inkjet printers each have their own niche applications depending on what you are printing, how much you will be printing and how your printed document will be used.

Let’s take a look at the cost advantages and disadvantages of each of these printing methods to gain some additional insight into how these devices differ. 

Cost Advantages of Laser Printers

In laser printers, toner cartridges and drum unit are consumables. While expensive, toner cartridges usually last longer and print more pages. This offers a lower cost per page and a lower total cost of ownership as compared to inkjet printers.

Being designed for faster print output and higher-volume print jobs, these devices are commonly built to withstand more wear-and-tear as they usually enjoy a lifespan of three to five years.

In fact, with expert maintenance from a Managed Print Services provider, some laser printers have been found to last for up to 10 years. Most often found in office environments, some businesses who want to keep their laser printer past the initial lease term, opt to buy out the lease. 

Additionally, laser printers are able to use plain, standard weight copier paper – unlike their inkjet counterparts. 

Cost Disadvantages of Laser Printers

The initial cost of a laser printer is a bit higher as well as the cost for toner cartridges. This type of a device is made for long-term use, not for short-term applications.

Cost Advantages of Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers are compact and portable devices that typically have a lower initial cost for the machine and also a lower cost for ink cartridges. This type of device prints photos and colorful images with ease.

Cost Disadvantages of Inkjet Printers

The nozzles in an inkjet printer can sometimes clog – when you least expect it. Often this may happen after long periods of non-use, due to dried-out ink. These devices, if used frequently, can also be costly to maintain and typically have a shorter lifespan than their laser printer counterparts, as they are commonly cheaper to replace than repair. 

In addition, inkjet printers require costly specialty paper with a tighter weave to prevent ink bleed-through.

Weighing the Options

If you are searching for a longer-term, networked, shared printer for office use – a laser printer may be the option for you. This type of device is constructed for frequent print jobs and can easily be configured for multiple user secure printing in zero-trust printing office environments for added document safety.

In addition, many businesses choose to configure their laser printer as an all-in-one device – adding copying, scanning and sometimes faxing to construct a cost-efficient and multipurpose office device.

In comparison, inkjet printers are smaller, handy devices most commonly found in stand-alone or home-based applications. They are more cost-effective in shorter-term applications of less than three years and are also well-configured for printing photos.

Request a Free Assessment for a Fresh Outside Perspective

Could the wrong technology be holding your business back from gaining a competitive advantage and improving workflows and efficiencies? A professional review of your business technology could help you identify gaps and opportunities for improvement. Contact the Gordon Flesch Company, today, for a complimentary 30-minute technology needs assessment. 

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