Piezo printing technology is one of the two technologies that drive modern inkjet printers. Rather than using heat to vaporize ink into the paper , like the Canon MP620 ink printer, a piezo printer uses pressure to force ink onto the paper. While piezo inkjet printers are more expensive to manufacture than thermal inkjets, they have a number of benefits.
Piezoelectricity is an electric force created by placing mechanical stress on certain components. Conversely, piezoelectrically sensitive components can also be made to change shape by being placed under an electrical charge. In a piezo inkjet printer, a small bit of ink is put into a chamber that, when charged, changes shape, generating pressure and forcing the ink out through the nozzle. The other popular inkjet printing technology, thermal printing, heats the ink to expand it so that it forms a bubble that pops onto the paper. Since thermal inkjets do not require the use of special piezoelectric components in their print heads, they are cheaper to manufacture. This is why most consumer inkjets use thermal technology.
The piezo printing technology is especially popular in commercial printers, such as those used to print the "drink-by" dates on cartons or bottles of milk. The technology's extreme durability and low cost of operation make it very suitable for commercial print applications. In addition, the fact that it does not need to use a volatile ink that reacts to heat makes it usable with a much wider range of ink formulations than thermal inkjet printing. Piezo printers tend to also be much less susceptible to clogging due to ink residue build up. In addition to commercial printers, both Brother and Epson, who makes both consumer and fine art printers, use the technology.
For most end users, there is only one discernible difference between piezo and thermal inkjet printers that can be linked to the technology. Piezo printers typically have permanent print heads while most thermal inkjet printers either have replaceable print heads built into the ink cartridge or periodically require separate print head replacements. As such, ink cartridges for piezo printers can be a little bit less expensive than cartridges that also include the print head.
Piezo printers have every benefit that any other modern thermal inkjet printer offers. They are quiet and fast with excellent print quality and the potential for stunning photographic printing. Where they differ from other consumer printers is in their potential to last slightly longer with less need for print head maintenance.