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1 The means by which an impact printer forms the printed characters on the top copy of printer stationery, ink being transferred from ribbon to paper. The characteristics of a ribbon depend mainly on the printer for which it is intended. There may however be two or three varieties of ribbon available for one printer type, depending for example on whether maximum utilization of the ribbon (and thus minimum ribbon cost) is important at the expense of print quality, or vice versa. Color variety is available.

Ribbon materials are normally nylon fabric, in various thicknesses and thread types, or polyester film. Fabric is soaked with ink, film is coated with ink-bearing wax. Thinner fabrics give better print quality, usually at the expense of ribbon life. Nylon ribbons can be continually reused until print quality is unacceptable due to ink depletion. The printer recycles such a ribbon continuously, either by use of a continuous loop or by reversing it at each end. With film ribbons a much greater proportion of the ink is transferred at each strike, leading to shorter ribbon life. They can however provide much better print quality than fabric ribbons. Degree of inking in a ribbon is a carefully controlled parameter.

Thermal transfer printers also require a ribbon, in this case a film ribbon coated with a thermoplastic or wax-based ink.

2 In some graphical applications, a horizontal row of control icons that can often be redefined to suit the user's requirements.

Subjects: Computing.

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