What’s The Difference Between Ink Cartridges And Printheads?

Calendar Monday, May 7th, 2018

UCI Documents - The differences between ink cartridges and print heads

Inkjet printers have become a big part of our everyday life as most feel they’re an important tool for work, school and personal life. However, many individuals who own an inkjet printer have little knowledge in how to remove and replace an ink cartridge or printhead. It isn’t a simple process, but if you learn the differences between cartridges and printheads, then it will become an easier task to complete.

Their differences became blurred when inkjet printers were first introduced to the marketplace and the general public. Each office machine contains replaceable ink cartridges (black, magenta, yellow and cyan) and printheads that work in unison to create and transfer an image onto a blank piece of paper. Rarely do these parts have the capacity to complete the other’s task. Ink cartridges aren’t able to spray ink onto the paper itself, and printheads cannot store the ink as it assists with the flowing of the liquid through the nozzle before hitting the paper.

Here are the differences between ink cartridges and printheads:

Ink cartridges

The ink cartridge is the reservoir of the printer that holds all of the liquid, and usually, sits on top of the printhead. Most inkjet printers have their own line of cartridges, which aren’t compatible with other brands on the market. The more advanced inkjet printers have cartridges that hold three (magenta, yellow and cyan) different colors into one container. If one of the cartridges become empty, then it must be replaced or the print quality will deteriorate quickly over time. The life expectancy of an ink cartridge varies due to the usage and printer maintenance provided.


Some believe the printhead is the “functional brain” of the inkjet printer. It instructs when to drop the ink from each cartridge precisely onto the paper to form an image. All inkjet printers have at least one printhead that sprays ink onto a piece of paper to form a document. The newer printer models may have two or more printheads (one for black ink and another for color), but this added feature can call for more maintenance to ensure quality prints for each request. Most inkjet printer owners replace their printhead shortly after replacing one or both of their ink cartridges. Often, the printhead can become difficult to replace, so you may need to see a technician as this isn’t a typical do-it-yourself project. Maintaining a maintenance schedule of this nature periodically throughout the year will keep the inkjet printer in good working condition.

Combined units

Some inkjet printer models have their printhead built into the bottom of the cartridge, which cannot be removed until all of the ink has been used. Combined ink cartridge/printhead units are more expensive that their counterparts, but they aren’t as popular with the daily user market.

UCI Document Solutions in Amarillo and Lubbock, Texas is a full-service, locally owned and operated business solutions company. Our team has more than 60 years of combined experience in the copier industry, ranging from sales and delivery to technical support, administration and dispatching. Give us a call today at (806) 372-7722. You can also Contact Us via email with any questions about our Copiers, Leasing, or Managed Print Services. We are located at 1000 S. Adams St. in Amarillo, or 2034 82nd St. #101 in Lubbock, Texas.