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How Do Inkjet Printer Cartridges Actually Work?

How Do Inkjet Printer Cartridges Actually Work?

Posted By: John Published: 30/12/2015 Times Read: 197 Comments: 0

Since they were released in the 1980s, inkjet printers have become the world’s most prevalent printer type – due in part to their affordability, ease-of-use and reliable all-round performance.

Yet, despite their affordable price tag and fool proof simplicity, inkjet printers contain all-manner of clever wizardry that allows them to place minuscule droplets of ink up to 32 times in one dot.

Of course, inkjet printers don’t do this all on their own; ink cartridges themselves are extremely clever, and are capable of supplying the correct quantity of ink to the page via a series of over 400 specially milled holes.

To prove just how clever ink cartridges, we ask – how do inkjet printer cartridges actually work?


Inkjet Printer Cartridges – The Lowdown


Ever wondered why some inkjet printers are so cheap whilst ink cartridges are so expensive? Aside from the cost of ink – it’s the crucial part cartridges play in the inkjet print process that makes them just as expensive as some printer models.

You see, every ink cartridge features two components that perform most of the work during the inkjet print process – the print head and circuitry. Sure, the printer houses the cartridge and provides the movement, but it’s the print head and circuitry that decides on the quantity of ink before propelling it on to the page.

How does it do this? The cartridge’s on board circuitry routes signals to the correct ink nozzle with amazing precision. Each ink drop is propelled by a super-heated vapour explosion lasting just two millionths of a second –accurately and reliably delivering up to 36,000 drops per second from each of the print head’s 400 microscopic nozzles.

Each nozzle on the cartridge print head is approximately 50 to 60 microns in diameter. To put this scale into perspective, consider that the diameter of a human hair is itself 70 microns in diameter. Ink is forced through these nozzles at a staggering speed of more than 500 inches per second – with up to 1,500 nozzles firing simultaneously.

These extremely tiny drops allow accurate placement of up 32 ink drops per individual colour dot on the page – with resolutions of up to 1440x720 dots per inch(dpi). Ink formulation must be absolutely consistent, to ensure each colour drop ejects at precisely the right speed to form the highest quality image regardless of the paper type.

Alternate Inkjet Technology


Whilst the technology outlined above is the most prevalent type of inkjet cartridge available, there is a second major inkjet technology available – piezoelectric.

Piezoelectric cartridges supply ink to a page when an electric current is applied to a special Piezo crystal, which are located in the ink reservoir itself. When the crystals receive the electrical current, they vibrate, causing ink to be forced out via the nozzles at an exact time and speed to accurately reproduce an image or text on the page.

So there you have it – now you know how inkjet printers actually work. For more interesting hints, tips and advice on all things printer tech, check out the rest of the Printhead blog.


Alternatively, visit our homepage to browse a comprehensive range of affordable ink and toner cartridges for your specific printer model. 

Image sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Innovate360


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