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Electronic device that accepts text files or images from a computer and transfers them to a medium such as paper or film. It can be connected directly to the computer or indirectly via a network. Printers are classified as impact printers (in which the print medium is physically struck) and non-impact printers. Most impact printers are dot-matrix printers, which have a number of pins on the print head that emerge to form a character. Non-impact printers fall into three main categories: laser printers use a laser beam to attract toner to an area of the paper; ink-jet printers spray a jet of liquid ink; and thermal printers transfer wax-based ink or use heated pins to directly imprint an image on specially treated paper. Important printer characteristics include resolution (in dots per inch), speed (in sheets of paper printed per minute), colour (full-colour or black-and-white), and cache memory (which affects the speed at which a file can be printed).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on printer, computer, visit Britannica.com.
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