History of the Inkjet Printer Cartridge
By Simon Williams - 10th May 2018

The concept of printing has been around for centuries, dating back as early as the year 200. However, inkjet printing itself only originated in the 20th century, but has continued to evolve and develop to this day in order to bring us efficient, modern printing methods.

The technology behind inkjet cartridges and the printing method was extensively developed in the 1950s onwards, as some of the biggest names in printers worked to create a new, innovative way to print our documents.

The 2 main technologies that are used in contemporary inkjet printing is ‘continuous’ and ‘drop on demand’.

Inkjet Printer Cartridge


The continuous method was developed for commercial use in marking or coding products and packaging. The first commercial device, a medical strip chart recorder, was produced by Siemens in the 1950s. This particular technology originated from the 1800s, when the syphon recorder was produced. This recorded telegraph signals on paper using an inkjet nozzle and a magnetic coil.

Continuous printing involves a high pressure pump that directs liquid ink from its reservoir, through a microscopic nozzle. Using a piezoelectric crystal, the ink breaks into droplets. This method of printing is one of the oldest inkjet technologies still in use today.


Many consumer inkjet printers use a form of ‘drop on demand’ printing. This is further divided into 2 types; thermal and piezoelectric. Inkjet printers from the likes of Canon, HP and Lexmark adopt the thermal inkjet process. This technology was developed by 2 separate groups in the late 1970s; a team from HP, and a Canon engineer.

Within the thermal process, printer cartridges consist of tiny chambers that contain a small heater. A current is passed through the chamber, with vapourises the ink and forms a bubble. This bubble creates pressure, which forces a droplet of ink to fall on to the paper in its precise position. This is otherwise known as Canon’s Bubble Jet Technology, used in a range of their printers.

Piezoelectric inkjet printing is used by brands such as Epsom and Brother. Using a piezoelectric material in the ink chamber, instead of a heater, a voltage is applied to make the material change shape. This generates pressure in the ink, which forces the droplet out through the nozzle. Piezoelectric inkjet technology can produce precise droplets and a wide range of inks, and may even run for a longer time.


Printing technology and the ability to produce printed documents opened up so many opportunities, including giving people the chance to read. The social impact that the printing industry has had over the years is invaluable. Inkjet printing and the invention of the inkjet printer cartridge in particular allowed for high speed and high quality printing at an affordable price. It took technology to the next level and allowed it to be used in households on a personal level, not just businesses. The last 30 years has seen a huge surge in developments, and we’ve no doubt that they’ll continue during the years to come!

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