Differences Between Laser and Line Printers

Line printers and laser printers provide different kinds of output. You most likely don’t need a line printer if your company only sometimes prints multipart forms. A laser printer is not the best tool, however, if all of your output is paperwork that you share around several departments. These two categories of hardware share essentially nothing in common outside the ability to print information.

Impact Printer

Line printers strike the paper with hammers as each correct letter, number or punctuation formed into a continuous matrix of characters on a chain, band or rotating cylinder reaches the proper position across the width of a sheet of paper. Instead of fully formed characters, the line matrix printer — a later variation on this impact technology — uses a bidirectional shuttle with dot hammers that contact the paper. Both band and line matrix printers can provide high-speed output of more than 60 pages per minute.

Page Printer

Laser printers image a full sheet at a time, applying a powdered mixture onto a drum in a pattern that represents the content of a page. The drum holds a positive charge that a laser reverses where the mixture will adhere just long enough to transfer onto a negatively charged piece of paper. A heat source called a fuser bonds the image in place. Some color printers apply each of four colors — cyan, magenta, yellow and black — separately; others combine the colors and apply them in one pass.


Line printers, like all impact printers, employ a single-color ribbon as their image source and can output up to 200 dots per inch. Since their type chains, bands, or cylinders only contain entire characters, true line printers only print letters, numerals, and punctuation. Monochrome graphics can be produced by line matrix printers. The impact on encapsulated ink or carbons creates the copies behind the ribbon, which creates the initial copy in a multipart form.


Laser printers create monochrome or full-color output at resolutions up to and beyond 1,200 dots per inch using a blend of plastic and pigment, rivalling the clarity and definition of a printing press. They can mix different sized dots in their principal toner colors to produce a variety of colors thanks to their ability to replicate line-screened output. The laser output is resistant to moisture, light, and even friction because to the strength of the heat-set connection between the toner and paper. Laser printers only produce copies by printing multiple copies of the same page of a document because laser output includes no impact.

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