Bottom Line? Printers Cover Their Backs

Printer guts

Printers are amazing machines. Even the simplest printers today have hundreds of parts and are capable of stunning print position accuracy. So much design, engineering and forethought goes into these machines which can cost less than $100 and are cheaper to replace than to repair.

Printers also happen to be fascinating to tear apart!

In a humble desktop ink jet color printer I found four motors, a huge number of gears and switches, connectors, electronics and all sorts of other cool components. Next time you are getting ready to throw away a printer, let me suggest grabbing a screw driver and pulling it apart first. It’s a fascinating way to spend an hour or two and a very fun activity to do with kids (just make sure to be safe about the electrical parts!).

In this latest tear down, I was intrigued to find an extremely absorbent pad at the bottom of the printer, just below the ink storage. As you can see, in this printer over half of that pad was thoroughly soaked with ink.

Printer ink

The presence of this pad in the first place means that despite all the engineering and design, the printers were still expected to produce a significant amount of leakage over their lifetime. As you can see from how much it has been used, it was clearly a good choice.

Before this little tear down, I never knew that printers had this safety feature to cover my back.


  1. You’re quite right – printers are incredibly intricate and surprisingly complicated machines! I recently sat through a lecture about how toner cartridges and laser printers work, and was amazed at how it all works. I never thought it would be so complicated, what with all the use of magnetism, metal and different fail safes. Truly an amazing and often overlooked area of technology.

  2. Thanks for stopping by and for the comment @ CS James.
    Now you’ve got me curious to learn more about the cartridges work. Happen to know of a good youtube video that walks through it?

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