Continuous vs drop-on-demand inkjet printers: How to choose the right product

As with all aspects of commercial production, developing a successful workflow for industrial coding and marking depends on selecting the right tools for the job. For businesses that are investing in new printing technology, this means carefully weighing the respective benefits of continuous vs drop-on-demand inkjet printers.

Both types of printer have been established for many years as efficient and reliable marking and coding technologies, with proven effectiveness when applied to the industrial printing process. However, each technology has its own specific pros and cons, making them better suited for different applications.

Here, we will explore the particular attributes of continuous inkjet printers vs drop-on-demand printers, in order to help buyers decide which industrial inkjet printing solution would work best for their particular needs.

What are the differences between continuous inkjet and drop-on-demand inkjet printers?

Continuous inkjet (CIJ) printing is a highly reliable and effective printing method that involves electrically charged ink droplets being expelled from a printhead nozzle and passed through an electric field.

When using CIJ printers, the inkjet is broken into drops inside the chamber via a pulse from a piezoelectric crystal, and these charged droplets then emerge from the nozzle and pass through an electrostatic field between deflector plates, with the correct position of the droplet on the substrate determined by its speed and charge, while the printer recirculates the remainder. With continuous inkjet printing, up to 120,000 droplets are expelled each second in a continuous stream, delivering high-speed contact-free performance.

Drop-on-demand inkjet printing, on the other hand, is a type of thermal inkjet (TIJ) printing. With thermal inkjet printers, ink is only fed through the printhead when a print dot needs to be set, rather than the system generating the inkjet continuously as with the continuous inkjet method.

When using thermal inkjet technology, ink is stored in a cartridge that regulates the pressure of the fluid. The necessary ink is delivered to the firing chamber when required, using an electric resistor to heat the substance at more than 1,000,000°C/second. This allows a 0.1 micrometre-thick film of ink to be heated to around 340°C, forming a bubble that expels a droplet onto the substrate. The process then repeats until the printing is complete.

What are the benefits of continuous vs drop-on-demand inkjet printers?

Both of these printing techniques are widely used in industrial applications, across a broad variety of sectors. Although drop-on-demand printers are generally more commonly used, both are seen as trusted and reliable methods for marking and coding.

The benefits of continuous inkjet printing include:

  • Highly versatile and capable of printing on almost any substrate, regardless of porosity, size, shape and texture, or when the surface is not flat or stable
  • No-contact printing up to 10mm or more away from the printhead
  • Suitable for most speeds, orientations and printing angles
  • Solvent-based inks dry quickly, ensuring efficient throughput

Meanwhile, drop-on-demand thermal inkjet printers are recognised for the following advantages:

  • Extremely fine droplet sizes, enabling high-resolution printing exceeding 1000p for clear, crisp text and graphics 
  • Low-cost operations within a compact model
  • Simple to operate, easy to clean and always ready
  • No need for bottled inks or solvents, reducing ink wastage and consumables costs

In order to choose the right printing solution for your application, it is therefore important to weigh up the specific benefits of each inkjet printing method and decide which approach will deliver the performance benefits required by your industry.

Find out more

To learn more about the comparative benefits and applications of continuous vs drop-on-demand inkjet printing, speak to the technical experts at Newcode Partnership.

You can browse our full range of coding solutions, including our continuous inkjet solutions from Hitachi and our thermal inkjet range from Anser.

If you want tailored advice on which product would work best for your specific application, call us on 01942 228882 or fill out our online contact form to request a callback.