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Ink cartridge, for inkjet printers, such as those made by Canon, HP, and Le

Ink cartridge, for inkjet printers, such as those made by Canon, HP, and Lexmark

  •  Most consumer inkjet printers, such as those made by Canon, HP, and Lexmark (but not Epson) use a thermal inkjet; inside each partition of the ink reservoir is a heating element with a tiny metal plate or resistor.

In response to a signal given by the printer, a tiny current flows through the metal or resistor making it warm, and the ink immediately surrounding the heated plate is vaporized into a tiny air bubble inside the nozzle.

As a consequence, the total volume of the ink exceeds that of the nozzle. An ink droplet is forced out of the cartridge nozzle onto the paper. This process takes a matter of milliseconds.
The printing depends on the smooth flow of ink, which can be hindered if the ink begins to dry at the print head, as can happen when an ink level becomes low. Dried ink can be cleaned from a cartridge print head by gentle rubbing with isopropyl alcohol on a swab or folded paper towel.[1]
The ink also acts as a coolant to protect the metal-plate heating elements − when the ink supply is depleted, and printing is attempted, the heating elements in thermal cartridges often burn out, permanently damaging the print head. When the ink first begins to run low, the cartridge should be refilled or replaced, to avoid overheating damage to the print head.[citation needed]
All Epson printers use a piezoelectric crystal in each nozzle instead of a heating element. When current is applied, the crystal changes shape or size, forcing a droplet of ink from the nozzle. This allows use of inks which react badly when heated, and can produce a smaller ink drop in some situations than thermal inkjet schemes.
 Typically, two separate cartridges are inserted into a printer: one containing black ink and one with each of the three primary colors. Alternatively, each primary color may have a dedicated cartridge.

Some cartridges contain ink specially formulated for printing photographs.

All printer suppliers produce their own type of ink cartridges. Cartridges for different printers may be incompatible — either physically or electrically.

Some cartridges have incorporated the printer's head (examples include HP, Dell, and Lexmark). The precision parts required generally make the cartridges more expensive, but the printers are cheaper since they don't include the precision print head. Other cartridges don't include the print head and so can cost less, though the printers tend to be somewhat more expensive (Epson is an example)

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