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Three Basic Concepts Behind Laser Printing

2010-05-16

Laser printers were invented in the early 1970's by the Xerox Corporation, with the first commercial model making its debut in 1977. In the past three decades, not much has changed in laser printing technology. Today's laser printers come in a variety of shapes and sizes and include many features including duplexing. The first laser printers only printed in black and white, but today's technology boasts color laser printers which produce stunning photo quality prints. Other print technologies have come along since then, but because laser printers can handle multiple jobs simultaneously, they've become a favorite for most office applications.

Despite their space age name, laser printers rely more on basic electricity to print images on paper than laser beams. Although lasers play a small role in the final output, the majority of the work is handled by positive and negative static electric charges. There are three basic concepts to understand in laser printing: the controller, the drum, and the fuser.

So how does the laser printer get its high tech name? It uses laser technology to create an image, but it doesn't write that image directly on the paper, as most people think. Information is sent to the laser printer and processed by the laser printer's controller. The controller processes that information into an image using computer technology and then "writes" that image using a photonic or laser beam. The image is written onto a drum and by using a series of positive and negative charges, the printer toner sticks to the drum in all the right places creating an image which can then be transferred to paper.

When the process begins, the drum is given a positive charge by the corona wire. Using a laser, the controller writes a negatively charged image onto the positively charged drum so that positively charged printer toner powder will adhere to it. When paper is passed through the drum, the printer toner sticks to it, much like a balloon that has been charged with static electricity.

The last step of the process involves the fuser which uses heat. The paper is sent through the fuser which causes the printer toner to fuse to the paper. The toner powder melts and binds securely into the paper fibers. Because the paper is passed through the fuser very quickly, the paper does not burn. Color laser printers use the same process, but repeat it four times in layers -- once for each color toner. Laser printers are seen in virtually every office around the world, and continue to be the best selling printers due to their speed, efficiency and economy. Reviewing these three concepts proves why it is widely used.

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