Difference Between Impact and Non-Impact Printers

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Printers are the most widely used devices in every organization and home. They are basically of two types – impact and non-impact printers.

If you want to know which printer to buy, you should be aware of the differences between impact and non-impact printers.

In this article, we will discuss the distinguishing features between the duo, their classifications, and also their printing potential.

By the end of this article, you will become equipped with everything you need to know about the impact and non-impact printers.

Let us get started with the discussion.

Impact Printers

Impact printers are those that function by having a direct impact on the ink ribbon to print. They create a contact by striking the metal head against this ribbon to print on paper. When the ink ribbon gets pressed against the ribbon, it marks the page with respective symbol, character, line or dot. Examples of impact printers include line printer, dot-matrix printer and daisy-wheel printers.

Non-Impact Printers

Contrary to impact printers, the non-impact ones do not use any hammer or ink ribbon to produce text or characters on the paper. Instead, it uses a cartridge filled with a liquid ink to print. The other prominent difference is that these printers do not use any electro-mechanical mechanism.

Instead, they use laser, inkjet, chemical, xerographic or electrostatic technologies. They produce much less noise. For instance, working mechanism of inject printers include spraying tiny drops of ink on the page. The laser printers usually use cylindrical drums that will roll the link on the paper. Both these working principles are non-impact and efficiently complete their work without making much noise. Low impact also means that there will be less repairs and maintenance.

Impact vs. Non-impact Printers

Below is a table that highlights the characteristic differences between impact and non-impact printers. This will give you a better understanding of the duo:

Sl. No Feature Impact Printers Non-Impact Printers
1 Working Mechanism Impact printers work by using a mechanism that strikes and hits against the ink ribbon, producing characters and images on the paper. Non-impact printers do not use the direct impact mechanism but cartridges filled with a liquid ink to print characters and images on the paper.
2 Different Types Dot Matrix Printer, Daisy Wheel Printer, and Line Printer


Thermal Printer, Inkjet Printer, Laser Printer, and Plotter Printer


3 Printing Mechanism Impact printers use electro-mechanic mechanisms and devices for printing. Non-impact printers do not use electro-mechanic mechanisms or devices for printing.
4 Printing Process These printers use pins, daisy wheels and hammers to strike against the ink ribbon for printing characters, and images on paper. These printers use special heating technology, inkjet printing technology and laser characters, and images on paper.
5 Print Quality Impact printers have lower print quality when compared to non-impact printers. The non-impact printers have higher print quality in comparison to impact printers. They are capable of producing coloured and black and white printouts. Inkjet printers are the most widely used non-impact printers.


6 Speed Impact printers work at a slow pace and take more time for printing a document.


Depending on the model, the printing speed may vary. It may be from 200 to 1,120 characters per second or about 12 to 60 pages per minute.

Non-impact printers work at a faster pace and are capable of printing many pages for every minute.



Depending on the model, the laser printers can easily print about 4 to more than 50 pages in a minute.

7 Noise Impact printers tend to be noisier than non-impact printers. They have moving parts and printheads that strike against the ink ribbon, making much noise. Comparatively, non-impact printers are quieter than their counterparts. The process of ejecting or depositing ink onto the paper is very silent and does not produce any noise.
8 Printing Ink


Impact printers produce prints on the paper when the metal printer head hits or strikes against the special inked ribbons. The non-impact printer uses a cartridge filled with liquid ink or toner to print characters or images on the paper.
9 Cost Impact printers are less expensive when compared to non-impact printers.


Non-impact printers are comparatively very expensive than impact printers.
10 Paper Sheet Used For Printing Impact printers use continuous paper sheets for printing. Non-impact printers use individual paper sheets for printing.
11 Graphic Images Impact printers are incapable of printing graphics, except the dot matrix printer. All types of non-impact printers are highly capable of printing graphical images with a nice quality.
12 Character Style


Impact printers do not facilitate changing of character style when printing. However, the dot matrix printers are an exception to it. Non-impact printers help you to print different types of characters on a single device.


13 Multiple Copies Using impact printers, you can produce multiple copies of the same page. You cannot produce multiple copies using non-impact printers.
14 Colour Option Impact printers have limited colours for printing and do not allow colour change, except the dot matrix models. Non-impact printers come with a large variety of colour options for printing.
15 Mostly Used By Most organizations and other newspaper production companies majorly use impact printers. The availability of non-impact printers is wide. Many homes, organizations, and even shops contain these devices.
16 Advantages Impact printers are capable of printing across several layers of paper quickly. They can withstand vibrations, dust and also high temperatures. Non-impact printers are very silent when operating. Moreover, they are capable of producing high-quality prints along with graphic images.
17 Disadvantages Since impact printers have moving parts and printheads that strike against the ink ribbon, they tend to be noisier. The text printing consistency of these printers is only suitable for printing labels, envelopes, or invoices for mailing purposes. Non-impact printers are not suitable for composite types of printing.

Let us discuss the above characteristic differences in detail. We will take you through some influential pointers that will help you analyze which printer is the best and why.

Print Mechanisms

The printing mechanism for both impact and non-impact printers are different as they make use of distinct techniques and technologies.

The impact printers use metal printheads that have metal pins to strike against the ink ribbon at high speed, creating characters on the page. If we look at the dot mix printer, it has a print head that consists of a tight column. This column has nine stiff wires, wherein each wire has an electronic actuator. When the print head moves back and forth, up and down across the paper, the actuators come into the picture. They start firing and cause these wires to drive into the ribbon. As a result, they hit the paper and create characters or images on it. The firing from the metal pins happens horizontally, and hence the characters, bar codes, and other graphics get formed.

Contrary to this, the non-impact printers do not strike against the ink ribbon. Let us talk about inkjet printers. They use inkjet printing technology wherein the printhead sprays the ink from the cartridge onto the paper. Though this part seems sophisticated, the rest of the mechanism is pretty simple.

If we consider the laser printers, they use laser light to draw ink onto the drum. When the laser light hits the drum, it causes the drum to roll the electrically charged ink. As it rolls and presses against the paper, the ink gets deposited onto it. This forms the images or texts on the paper and creates a permanent mark on it.

Winner: Non-impact printer

Quality of Printing and Other Features

Initially, impact printers were only for printing characters on the page. Moreover, there were only very few options during that time. The requirements were also very less. If at all they had to measure the print quality, they printed a formal letter and checked whether it was of high resolution or not. In addition, the options for font styles, colours, and graphics were either limited or none.

As opposed to impact printers, the non-impact ones have more features. Newer models that are available today are much more efficient. They print exactly the same (text, images, or graphics) as what you can see on the computer screen, and that too with high quality.

If we talk about graphics, non-impact printers produce texts and graphics of high quality. Especially the inkjet and laser models are capable of producing them at a resolution of 300 dots per inch and even more.

On the other hand, the dot matrix printers can produce graphics at a resolution of only 72 dots per inch (dpi), and that too in the draft mode. When it comes to higher-quality modes, the dots get overlapped, increasing the resolution to more than 300 dpi.

Coming to the colour options, impact printers have either black or red as the standard one. Unlike impact printers, the non-impact counterparts come in a large variety of colours. They combine different colours like yellow, magenta, etc., to produce thousands of shades. Not only that, but they also come in monochrome.

Winner: Non-impact printer

Printing in Batches and Carbon Copies

The upside to impact printers is they fulfill specific needs of users efficiently than their non-impact counterparts. We all know that these printers use continuous paper sheets for printing. The line printer model from the impact printers is highly capable of printing batch copies using the continuous form. That means it enables bulk printing of output for a longer period and does not need your attention when  operating.

Apart from batch printing, impact printers can easily multipart forms and also carbon copies. This is something you do not find in the non-impact printers, as there is no direct impact on the paper.

Winner: Impact printer


Impact printers work at a slow pace than non-impact printers and usually take more time for printing a document. The speed may, however, vary from model to model. If we consider the dot matrix printers, they print about 200 to 1,120 characters per second in a draft mode. In the high-quality mode, it typically fills extra dots in the same characters for a more clearer and smoother image. However, the speed might decrease and may come to around 100 characters per second, or even lesser.

If we take chain printers from the same impact technology, they are capable of printing a complete line of text on the page at a time. The fastest models from these printers can print up to 2000 lines in one minute.

The non-impact printers are the fastest when it comes to printing outputs. If we consider the laser printers, these can easily print about four to more than 50 pages in a minute. The industrial models from these can print up to thousands of pages in just one minute.

Winner: Non-impact printer


Impact printers are cost-effective when compared to non-impact printers. However, the dot matrix printers from the impact technology are relatively a little expensive than the desktop laser models of the non-impact printers. The supplies for dot-matrix models are less expensive, though.

If we consider the operating costs, it may range from 0.1 to 0.15 cents for both dot matrix and line printers of the impact technology.

On the other hand, the non-impact printers are expensive and also have high operating costs. For laser and LED models, the running costs range from one to nine cents for a single page. For printers with inkjet technology, it starts from 3 cents and may range up to 30 cents for just one paper.

Winner: Impact printer


Impact printers tend to make a loud noise, as the metal head keeps striking the ink ribbon, producing sounds.

Non-impact printers are relatively silent when compared to impact printers. However, the laser models may produce little noise because of the cooling fans present inside and the feed system of the paper.

The printers with inkjet technology also make some shuffling sound when printing. Even the paper feeder of these printers also makes some mechanical noise.

Winner: Non-impact printer

Printer Costs and Reliability

As mentioned earlier in the article, impact printers are less expensive than non-impact models. They are reliable, too. The complex consumables and mechanical parts used by these printers are very little in number, and hence there are fewer chances of breaking.

Non-impact printers are expensive and also have more running costs because they print high-quality outputs. If you want heavy-coloured printouts of texts, graphics, images, and pictures, it would cost you even more.

Although the printer may not be expensive, the ink cartridge and tone are very costly. When it comes to thermal printers, they need special heat-sensitive papers that can be expensive, too.

Winner: Impact printer


Here are the final words. Impact printers are cost-effective devices with limited colour options and printing speed. Although the models from non-impact printers are a little expensive, they have a high printing speed for producing outputs. Mostly used in many organizations, these tend to be the favourite ones for their speed and the wide array of colour change and font change options.

I hope this article gave all the information concerning impact and non-impact printers. I am sure you are now aware of what type of printer you need to choose for your home or organization. Post your choices in the comments and let us know why would you choose them.

Write to us if you find the impact vs. non-impact printer debate helpful. Feel free to post your questions in the comments and let us know if you need more information on this topic. Do not hesitate to add your inputs to the same.

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