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The Ink Cartridge Technology Behind New LED Printers

2011-08-19

Printers utilizing light emitting diode (LED) technology have long offered the potential for inexpensive, compact and reliable printers. The difficulty with LED printers has been achieving high quality prints, which were often distorted by low LED image resolution and instability of the LED light output. The latest technologies in LED printers, including improvements in LED printer ink, are overcoming these problems to achieve the desired superior print quality.

LED printers work by an image transfer or xerographic method, in which an array of LEDs is used to selectively illuminate an electrically-charged photoreceptor drum. The illumination changes the charge state in select areas, allowing the desired image to be written as an electrostatic pattern on the photoreceptor surface. Next, the LED printer ink is applied to the photoreceptor drum in the form of fine, electrically-charged toner particles. These particles adhere selectively to the drum based on the electrostatic pattern. The pattern of toner particles is then transferred and fused to paper with the application of heat.

While much of the advances in LED printer quality are associated with improvements in the light image, developments in LED printer ink or toner have also played a critical role. Higher resolution images require toner particles as small as four microns to achieve good pattern definition on printed paper. These particles need to be carefully engineered in size distribution and surface chemistry to ensure that they flow freely in the image transfer process. The newest LED printers employ toner particles that are grown chemically to precisely the desired size, rather than being milled from larger particles and sifted.

Another major improvement in LED printers is the development of toner particles having significantly lower melting temperatures, which reduces the heat required to fuse the toner to paper. The result is a substantial reduction in the power consumption of LED printers, nearly 40 percent lower than standard toners.

In addition to advances in LED printer toners, improvements in the toner fusing process have also been achieved. The major breakthrough was the development of a non-contact flash fusing process using a high intensity heating lamp to fuse the toner to the paper. This flash fusing enables reliable, high speed operation of the printer, since the paper no longer needs to be rolled and heated in the fusing process. Toner particle formulation again was an important factor, since the toner material needed to be optimized to absorb the optical energy of the heating lamp.

The toner technology behind LED printers has played a major role in improving their performance and print quality. Improved toner particle size distribution and toner chemistries have enabled LED printers to operate faster and more efficiently, to finally achieve high resolution printing at affordable prices.

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