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dot matrix

A pattern of dots that forms character and graphic images on printers. Although inkjet and laser printers print in dots, and monitors display dots as well, the term generally refers to images created with serial dot matrix printers. See dot matrix printer.

dot matrix printer

A printer that uses hammers and a ribbon to form images from dots. Used to print multipart forms and address labels, the tractor and sprocket mechanism in these devices handles thicker media better than laser and inkjet printers. Also known as a "serial dot matrix printer."

Hammers Hit the Ribbon
The dot matrix printer uses one or two columns of dot hammers that are moved across the paper. The hammers rapidly press the ribbon into the paper, which causes the ink to be deposited. The more hammers, the higher the resolution. For example, 9-pin heads produce draft quality text, while 24-pin heads produce typewriter quality output. Speeds range from 200 to 400 characters per second (cps), which is approximately 90 to 180 lines per minute (lpm). See line matrix printer.

Dot Matrix Printer
Long after the arrival of laser printers, dot matrix printers have been used to print continuous multipart forms and mailing labels. The tractor feed contains a sprocket that grabs the perforated holes at both sides of the form and pulls it through uniformly.

Dot Matrix Print Head
Dot matrix printers print columns of dots in a serial fashion. The more dot hammers (pins), the better looking the printed results. The print head can get very hot.

Fixed Character Spacing
Unlike laser and inkjet printers, which can create characters of any size, dot matrix printers have limited options.

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