How Does a Dot Matrix Printer Work

Dot-matrix printers not only sound techy but also have an extremely techy appearance. These printers feature a hammer and a ribbon that form images from dots by slowly and noisily hammering pins on the ribbon and onto the pages. Generally, a dot matrix printer works similarly to a typewriter. It is slower and noisy than the modern laser and inkjet printers and uses the impact method for ink deposit on the page.

A dot matrix printer has a print head that moves sideways and up and down on the page throughout the printing process. Similar to a typewriter, these printers have the ink in the ribbon stretched across the width of the page. The text is created on a page due to the pins hammering the ink-soaked ribbon against the paper.

Dot-matrix printers are costly and considered outdated, but their presence is undeniable for different purposes. And though their print quality is below the standard of most modern printers, they possess a difference from both laser and inkjets. Their uniqueness is seen in their ability to incorporate carbon copy printing which allows printing of multiple pages. This is made possible by the mechanism of the impact printing method. Dot-matrix printers are therefore ideal in business premises where multipart forms and address labels are produced. They are also known as serial dot matrix printers or impact matrix printers.

Printing With a Dot Matrix Printer

Printing With a Dot Matrix Printer

Dot-matrix printers work more like inkjet printers. Their printing processes involve the movement of a print head that creates text in a line-by-line motion. However, unlike inkjets, dot matrix printers impact the ribbon to print on-page. This method is likened to an ancient typewriter as it punches tiny holes through the ink-soaked ribbon and onto the page creating the text.

Additionally, dot matrix printers have a moving electronic head that holds the pins that move forward and backward, impacting small dots onto the ink-soaked cloth ribbon. These repetitive small dots on the ribbon result in the text and image on the printout. The more pins a printer holds, the higher the resolution and faster. Most dot-matrix printers hold around 9 to 24 pins.

The term dot matrix means a web of dots filled selectively to create an image or text on paper or a screen. The letters and characters in a dot matrix printer are formed by a matrix of dots placed closely in a specific shape to ensure they produce the intended character. And unlike typewriters, the symbols from a dot matrix printer are not limited to a pre-set template, thus producing different fonts in different sections of the same paper.

Feature Variations of Dot Matrix Printer

Features of Dot Matrix Printer

Though different models of dot matrix printers follow similar mechanisms, they tend to vary in different dimensions. Depending on one’s purpose, the printers will vary in speed, quality, and production quantity. A dot-matrix printer that handles continuous paper feeding is ideal for a business requiring high print volumes. Nonetheless, most dot matrix printers print at fast speeds with less or zero paper jams; thus, it’s important to note that not all provide high-quality and high-resolution prints.

Below are the significant features of dot matrix printer parts;

The Print Head

The dot matrix printer features an electric print head with pins that it pushes forth and backward onto the ribbon to form marks on the printout as it moves across the page. For instance, the print head with 9 horizontal pins may push them all at once to mark the vertical line of a letter L, then all the bottom 8 pins to complete the capital L. Dot-matrix printers with a higher number of pins like 24-pins result in higher quality prints necessitated by their smaller dots output.

The Ribbon

The ribbon is soaked with ink, and it’s located between the paper and the print head. When the print head pushes the pins, they press on the paper and display the marks onto the paper. Ribbon cartridges are pre-inked fabric ribbon that gradually finishes with usage requiring a replacement.

Paper Handling

Although many dot matrix printers allow single sheet feeding like laser and inkjet printers, they are mostly preferred due to their ability to feed papers continuously. Most of these printer types have a sprocket drive that grabs and holds the paper strips side by side and moves it throughout the entire printing process. This facilitates an easy printing process with few to zero paper jams.

Advantages of a Dot Matrix Printer

  • They feature a continuous paper feeding mechanism that allows one to load high quantities of paper, efficient printing, and fewer paper jams.
  • These printers are ideal for pressure-sensitive nosiness forms, which require an impact to produce multiple copies.
  • They are easy to install and maintain; you need to tighten the ribbon and align the print head.
  • Dot-matrix printers are highly durable even with continuous operation
  • These printers are cheap to keep and run
  • They are the best for hot and dusty environments
  • They support carbon copying

Drawbacks of a Dot Matrix Printer

  • They are very noisy as the printer hammers the pins onto the ribbon and the paper feed.
  • They produce low-resolution text and images with a noticeable dot structure. The highest quality resolution with a dot matrix printer is 240 dots per inch compared with 300 dots per inch of the lowest laser printer.
  • The printers are slow.
  • Dot-matrix printers can be messy, mainly because the ink dries slowly

What Do The Characters on the Dot Matrix Printer Represent?

Dot-matrix printers have pins that facilitate the display of characters on the page. Depending on your choice, you can opt for one with 9 pins, way up to 24 pins. In this regard, 24 pins result in the highest resolution.

Do Dot Matrix Printers have Benefits?

Although these machines were overlooked in ancient times, they are durable and an excellent option for invoicing packing labels where multiple copies are required. With dot-matrix printers, you can print many sheets at a go by printing directly on the white front as it carbon copies on the papers behind it.

Generally, the dot matrix printers are more reliable than lasers and inkjets, especially if working in busy and dusty environments like warehouses and car garages.


Dot-matrix printers work continuously under any condition, whether hot, cold, dirty, or dusty. Their efficient operation in every space makes them ideal for premises where quality is less needed than reliability. And since they are easy to use and maintain, garages, supermarkets, workshops, and supermarkets still value them. The dot matrix printers are great unless you don’t necessarily work in a hot, cold, or dirty environment or do not want to take in the disturbing noisy sound in its operation.

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