What is Toner?

So what is toner? We get asked that all the time. First off let’s make sure we are all talking about the right kind of toner, what we are not talking about is the cosmetic toner, you know that lotion or wash designed to cleanse the skin and shrink the appearance of pores.

Typical Toner Powder

The Four Basic Toner Colors

No, the toner we are talking about is what’s inside the toner cartridge you buy for your printer, it’s the actual medium that lets your printer lay down the images and text that you see come out on your paper.

Toner Powder

Microscopic photo of a developer bead coated with toner particles

The toner itself is an electrically-charged powder with two main ingredients: Pigment and Plastic. The role of the pigment is to provide the coloring, black, cyan, magenta or yellow that produces the text and images on the paper. This pigment is blended into plastic particles so that it will melt when it passes through the fuser which gets heated to a high enough temperature to melt these plastic particles.This quality gives toner powder a number of advantages over liquid ink. Using heat to melt the toner onto the medium causes it to firmly bind to almost any type of paper which means the text won’t smudge or bleed easily which is sometimes the case with liquid inks used in ink jet printers.

A replacing toner cartridge containing the toner hopper and drum assembly

This is toner at it’s most basic level which should suffice for this article. Needless to say there is much more in depth explanations that go into the chemical composition and scientific research of toner but that is not the scope of this post, we just want to give a brief overview of what toner powder is and how it works in the printer you use every day.

Each manufacturer spends millions of dollars on R&D and testing in an attempt to make their toner the best on the market. Toner product and the materials that make up the toner is an ever evolving industry. Consumers always want more, for example when toner was first introduced into the market there was only black. Now due to demand we have color laser printers, each toner color had to be invented and researched to produce the desired results. Customers wanted faster print times, that meant the toner had to be changed so it could melt on the paper at faster and faster speeds.

So, how does this toner powder get onto the paper? Well the toner is usally held in what we call the toner hopper which is inside the toner cartridge that you buy. The printer gathers the toner from the hopper with what is called the developer unit.

Printer Developer Unit

A typical Developer Unit

The developer is actually a collection of small, negatively charged magnetic beads. These beads are attached to a rotating metal roller, which moves them throughout the toner in the toner hopper.

Because they are negatively charged, the developer beads collect the positive toner particles as they pass through. The roller then brushes the beads past the drum assembly. The electrostatic image has a stronger negative charge than the developer beads, so the drum pulls the toner particles away.

The drum then moves over the paper, which has an even stronger charge and so grabs the toner.

Printer Drum Unit

Drum Unit

After collecting the toner, the paper is immediately discharged by the detac corona wire. At this point, the only thing keeping the toner on the page is gravity, if you were to blow on the page at this point, you would completely lose the image as the toner would simply blow away. The page must pass through the fuser to affix the toner. The fuser rollers are heated by internal quartz tube lamps, so the plastic in the toner melts as it passes through.

Laser Printer

How a Laser Printer Works

Here’s a simplified schematic of the major parts of a laser printer showing the toner hopper, corona wire, fuser, drum assembly and developer roller. When the paper is grabed from the paper tray it passes through the various parts of the printer at a high rate of speed. This is evident from watching how long it takes from the time you hit print to the time your page comes out complete with text and images. If you pick the page up as soon as it comes out of the printer you can still feel the heat form the fuser that melted the toner onto the paper.

So what is the main advantage of a laser printer Vs a ink jet printer? Speed, precision and economy. A laser can move very quickly, it can print with much greater speed than an ink jet. Laser printers do tend to cost more than ink jet printers but that is offset by the fact that it doesn’t cost as much to keep them running. Toner powder last a long time and still be usable, unlike ink jets that can dry up if you don’t use them. If your looking to print high quality photo’s better to get a high end ink jet, if your looking to print a lot of text documents or even color presentations for office use, get a laser printer.

Let us know what you think of the post, we love to hear from our readers so we can improve and write blogs that our readers want us to write.

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