What is a Printhead

Updated: Feb 14, 2024 10:38 AM

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A printhead is a crucial part of a printer. It is responsible for the transferring of the ink from the cartridge onto the paper. A printhead contains many tiny nozzles that control tiny droplets of inks to create the images, text, and graphics that are created in the printing process.

Through the press of a button or digital commands, that ink will transfer to a sheet of paper, thus creating the image you desire. And, while a printhead is amazing for what it does, there are times when failure will occur due to a lack of printhead cleaning or just general hardware failure. Keep reading to learn more. 

Every inkjet printer on the market is developed with one thing in common—a print head. Check out our guide on the best printers for some of these models.

Key Takeaways_

  • A print head is a component of an inkjet printer that deposits ink on printable media through tiny nozzles that spray out ink.
  • While all print heads do the same tasks, not all of them are the same. The technology behind their function might be different depending on the manufacturer.
  • In contrast with a cartridge, the print head works by getting instructions from the printer as text or image, receiving ink from the cartridge, and finally transferring it to paper media.

Types of Print Heads

printhead on a integrated ink cartridge

While all print heads do the same tasks, not all of them are the same. A printer is a device that receives information from a digital source and transforms the data on paper. The technology behind their function might be different depending on the manufacturer.

There are two types of print heads. These can be further broken down as below.

  • Impact printheads: These printheads transfer the ink to the paper by manually striking an ink ribbon.
    • Dot matrix – uses a rod or pin to create dots that make up the desired print.
  • Non-Impact printheads: These printheads do not have to make physical contact with the paper.
    • Inkjet – Most common type. Tiny droplets of ink are sprayed on the paper to create the print.
    • Thermal Transfer – By using heat to transfer the ink from a ribbon to the print surface.
    • Electrophotographic (Laser) – Electrostatic image is used to attract toner to create a print, then heat and pressure fuse the toner to the paper.

Difference Between a Print Head and a Cartridge

Today’s printer is relatively small, and it might take a keen eye to distinguish between its internal parts. The Ink cartridges function as a storage unit. In contrast, the print head works by getting instructions from the printer as text or image, receiving ink from the cartridge, and finally transferring it to paper media.

Also, unlike the high-yield ink cartridge vs standard, the print head doesn’t need to be replaced each time the ink needs replacing.

The only time you’ll need to replace your print head is if the print quality of your printer begins to deteriorate, and cleaning the head doesn’t solve the problem.

Print heads are also significantly cheaper to replace compared to ink cartridges. The ink cartridge is pricier since it comes with a standard toner charge.

Depending on your printer, it will come with a separate printhead and ink cartridge—which is more profitable. You won’t have to pay for the cartridge and printhead every time the ink cartridges need replacing.

Another thing you should know detailed in this guide is what a waste toner cartridge is if you use a laser printer.

F.A.Q.

What does it mean when my printer says there is an issue with my print head?

While print heads don’t require regular replacement like cartridges, they deteriorate over time. While a simple print head clean will often solve the problem when extensively used, they will need replacing. Also, when your printer notifies you of a print head issue, it could require a simple clean or a complete replacement.


Can a print head be fixed?

Yes. Usually, your printer will need a simple cleaning procedure to clear out the clog. However, in extreme situations, you’ll need to replace it altogether.


What is the difference between a print head and a cartridge?

The Ink cartridges function as a storage unit. In contrast, the print head works by getting instructions from the printer as text or image, receiving ink from the cartridge, and finally transferring it to paper media.


How will I know if my print head needs replacing?

The print head doesn’t need to be replaced each time the ink cartridge needs replacing. The only time you’ll need to replace your print head is if the print quality of your printer begins to deteriorate, and cleaning the head doesn’t solve the problem.


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