What is a Dot Matrix Printer?

Lawrence Bonk Profile image

Written By:

Updated November 28, 2022

If you are new to reproducing documents, you may wonder what a dot matrix printer is. After all, many of the best printers feature different designs and capabilities, including dot matrix models. So what exactly is a dot matrix printer, do you need one, and what benefits do they bring to average consumers? Keep reading to find out.


  • Dot matrix printers are a retro design that has fallen out of favor in recent years, though they are still useful in certain scenarios.
  • Unlike inkjet printers, this type of printer uses a pinwheel filled with dots that rearrange into specific shapes to print characters.
  • Dot matrix impact printers and serial dot matrix printers are known for being budget-friendly, easy to use, and great for making multiple copies at once.

Dot Matrix Printers Defined

The humble and old-school dot matrix printer (DMP) uses pins that impact an ink ribbon to create reproductions, which makes them a good choice for printing documents but not when looking for the best photo printer. These printers are considered outdated, though many are still in use for a variety of reasons, similar to when learning the definition of a thermal printer. Dot matrix models can print multiple copies of the same text simultaneously thanks to carbon copying, which not even solvent printers can accomplish.

Insider Tip

If you want a clean video feed, the best option is to connect a high-quality camera to your laptop or computer.

In other words, though these printers are slightly outdated, they still have their uses, though measuring the best printer speed is not one of them (they are known to be on the slower side.)

How Does a Dox Matrix Printer Work?

They offer a unique solution to the problem of document printing. This type of printer forms characters and letters via a matrix of dots (thus the name.) The print head has multiple pins attached to it and moves in the required direction, striking against a cloth print ribbon that has been soaked in ink. The dots arrange themselves in a particular shape to create various symbols, mimicking the printing mechanism of a classic typewriter and an old-school daisy wheel printer.

However, dot matrix printers allow the dots to arrange so that they can create many different symbols instead of being tied to just one symbol, as with a typewriter. When you print with a DMP, any character is basically an accumulation of dots.

Benefits of Choosing a Dot Matrix Printer

Though slightly out-of-date, there are some benefits to choosing a dot matrix model for your printing needs.

  • Budget-friendly These printers are certainly on the cheaper side, suiting many consumers.
  • Carbon copying – This process allows this type of printer to make multiple copies of the same document at once.
  • Easy to use – These are simple designs that are easy to use for most people.

STAT: In 1925, Rudolf Hell invented the Hellschreiber, an early facsimile-like dot matrix-based teletypewriter device, patented in 1929. (source)


Are dot matrix impact printers suitable for dusty and humid environments?

These printers do not have many electrical components, making them excel in challenging environments, making this form of printer used in a variety of applications.

When should I consider a DMP?

When your inkjet printer is struggling to finish a job, consider a DMP to keep printing costs down. Laser printers are also an option here.

What does a dot matrix printer (DMP) mean?

This type of printer differs from inkjet printers as there is a pinwheel of dots on the print head that arrange into different configurations to create symbols and characters. This print head does not include any electrical components, and they come in various sizes, such as a 24-pin printer.
Lawrence Bonk Profile image