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How do laser printers work?

How do laser printers work?

After watching too many sci-fi films, the last place you might expect to encounter lasers is in a simple piece of office equipment: the printer. There’s no need to worry, as this doesn’t mean your reliable piece of hardware is going to start blasting red flashes of light at you anytime soon.

Instead, lasers are used in an intricate process which ends up with a piece of paper with exactly what you wanted printed on it. For users, all you do is hit print and send your document or image to be printed. However, once you know what goes on in the belly of your beast, the laser printing process is actually very interesting.

1. How laser printers work

Laser printers use a heated wire to positively charge a drum. Then, a laser passes over it which reverses the charge in the parts that it covers. You end up with a negatively charged area of the drum which becomes the text or image that needs to be printed.

  • The printer needs to warm up and reached a specific temperature in order to heat the wire
  • The wire is heated and passes an electrical charge to the drum unit. This causes the drum unit to be positively charged
  • The laser is activated, beamed to various mirrors and reflected across the drum’s surface. Where it hits the drum, the positive charge changes to negative. This creates an outline of what you’re printing
  • The negatively charged areas are where the toner particles stick to the drum to then be transferred onto paper
  • An ink roller coats the drum with toner which begins sticking to the drum
  • Paper passes near the drum, causing the negatively charged toner particles to be attracted onto the page
  • The particles are then fused to the paper and the page is spat out of the printer

2. Do laser printers use ink?

Unlike inkjet printers, laser printers don’t use traditional ink. Instead they tend to use toner which is a fine, dry powder. It’s essentially a mixture of plastic, carbon, or polyester particles, combined with colouring agents, which comes in cylinders. Thanks to the fact that it’s powder based, it’s normally cheap to ship, store, and use.

3. Are laser printers faster at printing?

Since lasers can move extremely quickly, they’re usually faster at moving than an inkjet printer. The laser beam is also able to draw more precisely without spilling excess ink. Although these devices might be more expensive than inkjets, it usually costs less to fuel them since toner powder is cheaper and lasts longer too.

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