Difference Between Impact And Non-Impact Printers With Examples


Printers are classified into two types according to whether or not the image printed is formed by striking an ink ribbon against the paper. In this regard, printers are either classified as either:

  • Impact-printers
  • Non-impact Printers

What Is An Impact Printer?

An Impact printer is a type of printer that operates by striking a metal or plastic head against an ink ribbon. The ink ribbon is pressed against the paper, marking the page with the appropriate character, dot, line or symbol. These printers were very popular in the past but have largely been replaced by non-impact printers like inkjet and laser printers due to their faster printing speeds and quieter operation.

Common examples of impact printers include:

  • Ball printers: Ball printers use a spherical ball with raised characters on the outside. The ball spins to each character before printing it on page.
  • Dot matrix: Dot matrix printers work by striking a grid of pins against a ribbon. Different characters are printed by using different pin combinations.
  • Daisy wheel printers: Daisy wheel printer, in order to print each character, the wheel spins to the appropriate petal and a hammer strikes the petal against the ribbon and the page.
  • Line printers: Line printers use pins to strike against the inked ribbon, making dots on the paper and forming the desired characters.
  • Drum printers:  In a drum printer, the paper is taped onto a drum for precise alignment to the nozzles; therefore, when the desired character for the selected position is rotated around to the hammer line, the hammer hit the paper from behind and pushes the paper into the type slug when it is rotated around to proper position.
  • Chain printers:  This printers use type slugs linked together in a chain as its printing mechanism. The chain spins horizontally around a set of hammers. When the desired character is in front of the selected print column, the corresponding hammer hits the paper into the ribbon and onto the character in the chain.
Dot Matrix Printer, An Example Of Impact Printers

What You Need To Know About Impact Printers

  • Impact printers use a physical impact or contact between the printing mechanism and the paper to create characters. They have moving parts that strike an inked ribbon against the paper.
  • The printers are noisy due to the mechanical impact of the print head on the paper. The sound is often likened to the noise of a typewriter.
  • They tend to produce lower print quality compared to non-impact printers. The characters may appear less sharp and clear due to the impact-based printing method.
  • They are slower compared to non-impact printers. The mechanical movement required for each character printing slows down the overall printing process.
  • Impact printers use ribbons that contain ink. The ribbons need to be replaced periodically, and they can be messy to handle.
  • The printers are commonly used for multipart forms, such as carbon copies or duplicate forms, where the impact of the print head creates an impression through multiple layers.
  • Impact printers are more robust and durable, often used in environments where the printer might face rough conditions, like industrial settings.

What Is a Non-Impact Printer?

Non-impact printers are printers that form characters and images without direct physical contact between the printing mechanism and the paper. Non-impact printers use a cartridge filled with toner or liquid ink, which allows them to produce fine-quality images quickly and quietly.

Examples of non-impact printers include:

  • Laser printers: laser printers have a cylindrical drum that rolls electrically charged ink onto the paper.
  • Inkjet printers: Inkjet printers form images with tiny dots, they spray tiny drops of ink onto the page from the four nozzles through holes in a matrix at high speed onto paper.
  • Thermal printers: with thermal printers, output characters are formed by a special heating element placed with special heat-sensitive waxy paper, forming darkened dots when element reaches a critical temperature.
  • Dye-Sublimation Printers: These printers use a unique process where solid dye is heated and transformed into a gas, which then permeates a special paper and solidifies to create a vibrant and continuous-tone print. Commonly used for producing high-quality photographs and professional graphics.
Inkjet Printer, An Example of Non-impact Printers

What You Need To Know About Non-Impact Printers

  • Non-impact printers do not physically strike the paper. They use methods like heat, light, or electrostatic charges to transfer the ink or toner onto the paper.
  • They are generally much quieter than impact printers since they do not involve physical impact on the paper.
  • They produce higher print quality compared to impact printers. The characters are typically sharper and more well-defined.
  • They are faster than impact printers because they do not rely on mechanical movements for each character.
  • The printers use toner or ink cartridges that are less messy and easier to replace than the ribbons used in impact printers.
  • The printers are not well-suited for multipart forms as they do not create the necessary physical impact to transfer ink through multiple layers.
  • The printers are less durable and may be more sensitive to environmental conditions due to their intricate electronic components.

Also Read: Difference Between Plotter And Printer

Difference Between Impact And Non-Impact Printers

Description Impact printers form images and characters by striking a mechanism such as a print hammer or wheel against an inked ribbon, leaving an image on paper.   Non-impact printers form characters and images without direct physical contact between the printing mechanism and the paper.  
Printing Mechanism Printing in impact printers is done by hammering a metal pin or character dye.   Printing in non-impact printers is done by depositing ink on paper in any form.  
Speed They are low speed printers. They consume a lot of time to print a document.   They are very fast, they can print many pages per minute.  
Noise Level They have high level of noise because they have many moving parts and also the print head strikes on ribbon and paper.   They do not have high level of noise. The process of laying ink or toner onto paper is virtually silent.  
Printing Process They use pins, hammers or wheel to strike against an inked ribbon to print on a paper.   They use laser, spray of special ink or heat and pressure to print on paper.  
Print Quality Print quality of impact printers is lower than those of non-impact printers.   Print quality of non-impact printers is higher than those of impact printers.  
Printing Ink They use special inked ribbons to produce print on paper when print head strikes.   They use toner or cartridge for printing on paper.  
Technology They use old printing technologies.   They use latest printing technologies.  
Cost They are often less expensive.   They are often very expensive when compared to impact printers.  
Nature Of Paper Sheet  Used They use continuous paper sheet.   They often use individual paper sheets.  
Graphic Images With exception of dot matrix printer, impact printers cannot print graphics images.   Printing of graphical images in non-impact printers is very much possible.  
Character Style With exception of dot matrix, the character style cannot be changed in the impact printers.   It can print different types of characters form busing the individual printer.  

Advantages and disadvantages of Impact Printers


  • Impact printers can create carbon copies by exerting pressure on the paper through multiple layers.
  • The mechanical nature of impact printers makes them robust and durable, with the ability to handle harsh environments.
  • These printers are generally more affordable than modern non-impact printers.
  • Impact printers are suitable for printing multipart forms, making them useful in environments where such forms are still necessary.


  • Impact printers are quite noisy due to the physical impact of the printing mechanism.
  • Impact printers are slower compared to modern non-impact printers like inkjet and laser printers.
  • The print quality of impact printers is generally lower compared to non-impact printers, with less sharp text and graphics.
  • These printers require more maintenance due to the mechanical parts involved in the printing process.

Advantages and disadvantages of Non-impact Printers


  • The printers produce higher-quality prints with sharper text and more detailed images.
  • Unlike impact printers, these printers operate quietly, making them suitable for office environments.
  • Many of these printers offer faster printing speeds, especially laser printers used in business settings.
  • They can handle a wide range of media, including various paper sizes, textures, and specialty papers.


  • Non-impact printers, especially color inkjet and laser printers, can be more expensive to purchase and maintain.
  • Laser printers and some other non-impact printers can have complex internal components that require periodic maintenance.
  • While impact printers are known for their durability, some non-impact printers might be more sensitive to environmental conditions.