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Inks and Toners

Types of Digital Ink | Hi-Fidelity Digital Ink | Digital Ink Sources

Types of Digital Ink

There are a wide variety of inks and toners used for digital printing processes and they are collectively referred to as "digital inks". The most widely used digital inks are for electrophotographic and ink jet processes which are much more popular than processes such as magnetography, thermal transfer, or dye sublimation. Toner-based technology dominates the digital printing industry and is predicted to remain the most popular for years to come.


Dry Toner

Many digital printing systems use electrophotographic technology and most electrophotographic systems use dry toner. Unlike traditional ink, dry toners are not absorbed into the paper, but sit on top of it. Most dry toner systems provide excellent results. Dry toner is typically used to print text and graphics on color applications including direct mail pieces, tags, labels, tickets, statements, and business forms. It is also widely used on applications requiring sequential numbering, barcodes, or MICR encoding. 

Liquid Toner

An alternative to dry toner is liquid toner which can be either water based or solvent based.

  • Water Based Liquids: Liquid toners with a water base are are used with several ink-jet processes including continuous in-jet, piezoelectric drop-on-demand, and bubble jet. They are more environmentally safe than solvent based fluids. The paper surface can be affected if a heavy coverage of water based liquid toner is applied, so special papers can be used to absorb more of the moisture without changing the surface characteristics of the paper. Water based liquid toner can be printed on bond paper, tag and label stocks, and carbonless paper for many types of applications including direct mail forms, statements, tickets, and labels.

  • Solvent Based Fluids: Some liquid toners are manufactured with low emission solvent based fluids. The solvent based fluids have several advantages over water based liquid toners. Solvent based liquid toner dries faster so printing speeds can be increased. Curling and wrinkling (due to excess moisture) is not a problem as it is with water based liquid toner. The pigment is more concentrated in solvent based fluids than in water based, so the color is sharper and the resolution is improved. Organic pigments, when in solution with solvent based fluids, do not fade as quickly as water based liquid toner. Solvent based liquid toners are not as environmentally friendly as water based and they may emit VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), which are under strict government regulations.

Solid Ink

Solid ink is used for solid ink-jet thermal phase change printers. The ink begins as a solid and is heated to change it into a liquid state so that it can be applied to the substrate. The ink returns to a solid immediately after being applied to the substrate. It can be used on many types of applications using bond paper, tag, label stock, carbonless paper, foils, and fabrics.

UV Resistant Inks

The inks used for ink-jet systems are created with dyes, which tend to fade under repeated exposure to the ultraviolet rays of sun light. Ink-jet dyes are constantly being improved to increase fade resistance under UV light.

Magnetic Toners

Magnetic toner is required for Ion deposition printing in which the toner is attracted to an imaging drum. Magnetic toner is also required for the magnetographic process which utilizes a toner of iron particles, which are attracted to a magnetic drum.

Donor Ribbons

Donor ribbons are used with processes such as dye sublimation in which the ribbons are coated with special dyes and thermal transfer systems in which the ribbons are coated with thermoplastic inks.

Wax Based Ink

The thermal wax transfer process uses a colorant that is wax based instead of a dye or a plastic coated ribbon. The wax is melted and is deposited on the substrate.

Hi-Fidelity Digital Ink

Hi-fidelity printing is not limited to conventional printing methods, but it can also be printed on documents on many types of digital equipment. Along with the standard cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks, some high-fidelity systems use orange and violet inks or orange and green. The color gamut is greatly increased and colors are much more vibrant. Colors can be matched much more easily because of the increased range of color. Hi-fidelity printing systems can be used to reproduce special spot colors for company logos, add distinction to direct mail and marketing pieces, and enhance the quality of art reproductions.

Digital Ink Sources

A complete listing of vendors and their Web sites, which will help you gain additional knowledge about a particular brand or type of ink, can be found in digital ink sources.

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