Multi-pass vs. single pass printing technology

30. June 2012 06:00 by Calvin Yu in Technology News, Troubleshooting and Printer Tips  //  Tags:   //   Comments

When shopping for a new printer, you might be thrown off by terms like "multi-pass" and "single-pass." To an inexperienced person, these terms mean next to nothing. However, they refer to the way in which ink or toner is used and applied, and they can dramatically affect the amount of money that it will cost you to use your printer. As a result, it's well worth it to familiarize yourself with the main differences, pros and cons of each type of printing. While there is no "correct" option, most people strongly prefer one type of technology over the other. Learn more about single-pass and multi-pass printing below.

Single-Pass Printing

People are typically very concerned about the speed with which a printer can produce copies. That's especially true in office settings, where time is of the essence. Single-pass printing refers to printing that produces a completed copy in a single "pass." In other words, the page is fed into the printer, printed and ejected immediately from the other side. It doesn't spend any extra time in the printer because all of the ink is applied at one time. That may seem obvious, but it's an important distinction.

With single-pass printing technology, the cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink cartridges each have their own drums, which allows each to dispense ink at the same time. The obvious advantage of this is that it produces much quicker results. If fast printing is your chief concern, this may be the right option for you. These printers are also very reliable. One major drawback of single-pass printing technology is that it's more expensive than its multi-pass counterpart. There are multiple drums, and replacing them can be pricey. Furthermore, it's more expensive to buy ink for this kind of printer. However, it may be worth it to you because of the extra efficiency.

Multi-Pass Printing

As you can probably already guess, multi-pass printing refers to printing that involves multiple "passes" under a single drum. One drum can only dispense one type of ink at a time. To produce full-color results, a sheet of paper has to pass beneath the drum four separate times. With each pass, different colors of ink are dispensed. After feeding a single sheet of paper into a multi-pass printer, you'll notice that it sort of lingers inside the machine. That's because it has to pass through several different times.

The biggest drawback of multi-pass printing is the extra time that is involved. Because ink is dispensed four separate times, this type of printing takes four times as long. That is simply unacceptable to some people. Another problem is there's the potential for shifting, which can result in distorted images. Whether the cartridge or the sheet of paper shifts, the ink won't align and the end result will be inferior. The primary advantage of this type of printer is that it's a lot cheaper to own. There's only one drum, and the individual cartridges are generally a lot less expensive as well.

Choosing the Right Technology

At the end of the day, choosing between multi-pass printing and single-pass printing is going to hinge on whether time or expense matters more to you. If you absolutely need to have the fastest printing around, a single-pass printer is the way to go. If expense trumps speed, however, you should investigate multi-pass printers instead. Although both types of technology produce similar results, there's the potential for distorted images with multi-pass printing. That is yet another point that you should keep in mind while deciding between the two. In the end, it all boils down to time and money.

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