Impact Printer


An impact printer is a type of printing device that creates text and images on paper by physically striking an inked ribbon against the paper’s surface, transferring the ink. They work through the use of a mechanical mechanism, such as a series of pins, hammers, or typebars, to press the inked ribbon onto the paper. Some common examples of impact printers are dot matrix printers, typewriters, and daisy wheel printers.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Impact Printer” is:/ˈɪmˌpækt ˈprɪn.tər/

Key Takeaways

  1. Impact printers use physical contact to transfer ink onto the paper, often through pins or hammers striking against a ribbon.
  2. These printers are known for their durability, ability to print multiple copies at once using carbon copies, and are most commonly used for specific tasks like printing invoices or dot matrix labels.
  3. Impact printers tend to be noisier and slower than their non-impact counterparts, such as inkjet and laser printers, and have a lesser print quality for graphics and photos.


The term “impact printer” is important because it designates a specific category of printers that has played a crucial role in the evolution of printing technology.

Impact printers physically strike the paper with inked characters or dots, creating a tangible, long-lasting copy of the text or image.

These printers, which include dot matrix, daisy-wheel, and line printers, were widely used in the past for their durability, low-cost consumables, and ability to produce multi-part forms such as carbon copies.

While impact printers are generally less popular today due to the rise of non-impact alternatives like inkjet and laser printers, they still maintain relevance in certain industries and applications where their unique capabilities offer advantages over modern printing methods.


Impact printers serve the essential purpose of creating physical, tangible copies of documents, images, or data through a direct method of contact with the printing medium, typically paper. This type of printer operates by using pins or type elements to strike an inked ribbon and transfer the ink onto the paper, resulting in the creation of characters or images. These printers were one of the earliest forms of computer printers that made it possible to reproduce information through a physical medium.

Widely adopted across industries, organizations, and homes alike, impact printers have played an indispensable role in enabling businesses to generate invoices, reports, flyers, and an array of other documents crucial for their daily operations. The most common types of impact printers include dot-matrix, daisy-wheel, and line printers. Dot-matrix printers use a matrix of tiny pins to create individual dots that form the desired characters or images, offering a degree of versatility in print quality and font choices.

Daisy-wheel printers, on the other hand, have a single, pre-defined set of characters and symbols mounted on a rotating wheel, which then strikes the ink ribbon when selected. Line printers, as the name suggests, print an entire line at a time by utilizing a series of characters in a chain or a band. Though largely replaced by non-impact printers, such as inkjet and laser printers, impact printers still retain a niche in specialized applications, like multi-part forms and printing in extreme conditions, where the direct contact method provides the necessary reliability and durability.

Examples of Impact Printer

Dot Matrix Printer: The dot matrix printer is one of the most common examples of an impact printer. It works by using a print head that moves horizontally, striking ink ribbons against the paper to create characters and graphics made up of individual dots. Dot matrix printers were widely used in the 1980s and 90s for tasks such as printing invoices, shipping labels, and continuous feed multi-part forms. They continue to be used today for specific applications, like printing carbonless forms and in environments where low-cost, reliable printing is essential. Examples include Epson LX-350 and Okidata Microline

Line Printer: A line printer is another example of an impact printer, which is designed to print a complete line of characters simultaneously using a chain or drum. These printers were popular in data centers and businesses in the 1960s and 70s for printing large volumes of alphanumeric text. The high-speed operation and extremely low per-page cost made them ideal for large mainframe computers that generated vast amounts of printed output. Their usage has declined significantly with the advent of laser and inkjet printers. Examples of line printers include the IBM 1403 and the Printronix P8000 series.

Daisy Wheel Printer: In daisy wheel printers, each character or symbol is present on a wheel (shaped like a daisy) and the wheel rotates to the desired position before striking the paper through an ink ribbon. Their operation is similar to that of a typewriter, and they were popular in office environments during the 1970s and 80s before they were replaced by inkjet and laser printers. These printers provided higher quality text output compared to the dot matrix printers but lacked the ability to produce graphics easily. An example of a daisy wheel printer is the Diablo

FAQ: Impact Printer

1. What is an impact printer?

An impact printer is a type of printer that creates text or images by physically striking an ink ribbon against the paper. This forceful impact transfers the ink onto the paper, resulting in a printed document. Examples of impact printers include dot-matrix, daisy-wheel, and line printers.

2. How does an impact printer work?

An impact printer works by using individual pins, hammers, or wheels that forcefully strike an ink ribbon against paper. The ink ribbon is usually made of fabric or plastic saturated with ink, and the physical force of the pins or hammers causes the ink to transfer to the paper. The print head moves along the paper, creating characters or images using this striking mechanism.

3. What are the advantages of using an impact printer?

Impact printers have several advantages, including the ability to print on multi-part forms (such as carbon copy paper) and the creation of long-lasting, durable prints. They are also often less expensive than non-impact printers, like inkjet or laser printers. Additionally, impact printers are well-suited for printing in environments where exposure to heat, cold, or humidity may affect the printing process.

4. What are the disadvantages of using an impact printer?

Impact printers have some drawbacks, such as being much louder and slower than non-impact printers. They are also limited in terms of graphic capabilities compared to inkjet or laser printers. Finally, they typically require much more frequent maintenance, such as changing the ink ribbon and cleaning the print head.

5. Are impact printers still in use today?

While the popularity of impact printers has significantly decreased with the rise of inkjet and laser printers, they are still used in specific industries and applications. Impact printers are ideal for tasks requiring multi-part forms, and are commonly used in point-of-sale systems, ATMs, and industrial environments where durability and resistance to adverse conditions are necessary.

Related Technology Terms

  • Dot Matrix Printer
  • Line Printer
  • Character Printing
  • Print Head
  • Ribbon Cartridge

Sources for More Information


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