Laser Printers - All about the Laser Printer

All About The Laser Printer

 

Today, laser printers are considered to be indispensable hardware in the office, at home, or any place where computers are used. Laser printers allow us to put a tangible form for whatever we are working on with the computer, be it a form, an illustration, a document, an array of code or whatever it may be.

As useful as laser printers are, have you ever wondered how they work and how they came to be? We hope to answer these two questions through this article: how the laser printer was invented and how it works.

Xerox Star 8100
Xerox Star 8100

The Beginnings of the Laser Printer

The nifty invention that is the laser printer had its beginnings under the hospices of the Xerox Corporation. It was the brainchild of one of their researchers, Gary Starkweather, who came up with the idea in 1969.

The prototype of this machine that Starkweather created was based on the patented xerographic system of the Xerox Corporation. However, instead of the imaging system of Xerox's copiers, Starkweather replaced this system with a spinning drum that has eight sides made of glass. A laser was focused on this drum, and as the drum spins inside the machine, the light is dispersed all over the paper.

It took Starkweather two weeks to create the laser printer hardware itself, and he did this in 1971, but the firmware and the user interface took two months to complete. In 1972, Xerox was able to come up with a laser printer prototype that can be connected to a network.

As much as Xerox was the one who invented the laser printer, IBM was the first company to release a commercial version of the machine. The model was called IBM 3800, and it went out into the market in 1976. The distinct characteristic of this machine is that it can literally occupy an entire room, and it is used for printing en masse.

It was only in 1981 that the first true laser printer made for personal use came out. This time, it was an ace scored by Xerox Corporation, and the model was called Xerox Star 8010. This laser printer model, however, did not cut it across the market because it is expensive at $17,000 a unit. Only a few businesses were able to afford it; Xerox was only able to sell around 100,000 units of this machine.

These developments nonetheless goaded other companies involved in computer technology to come up with their own innovations regarding the laser printer. Hewlett-Packard came up with their own LaserJet printers in 1984 while Apple Computers released the Apple LaserWriter in 1985. Other companies that followed suit included IBM and Brother Industries.

Another notable side development to the invention of the laser printer was the rise of desktop publishing. With laser printers making it possible for individuals to print out high-quality copy, it has become possible to publish documents using just the desktop computer. Software such as the Aldus PageMaker also contributed greatly to the development of desktop publishing.

More improvements have been introduced in the last 30 years since the laser printer was first invented, but the principles behind the machine itself are still the way they are.

Original IBM 3800
Original IBM 3800

The First Commercial Laser Printer - IBM

As much as Xerox was the one who invented the laser printer, IBM was the first company to release a commercial version of the machine. The model was called IBM 3800, and it went out into the market in 1976. The distinct characteristic of this machine is that it can literally occupy an entire room, and it is used for printing en masse.

It was only in 1981 that the first true laser printer made for personal use came out. This time, it was an ace scored by Xerox Corporation, and the model was called Xerox Star 8010. This laser printer model, however, did not cut it across the market because it is expensive at $17,000 a unit. Only a few businesses were able to afford it; Xerox was only able to sell around 100,000 units of this machine.

These developments nonetheless goaded other companies involved in computer technology to come up with their own innovations regarding the laser printer. Hewlett-Packard came up with their own LaserJet printers in 1984 while Apple Computers released the Apple LaserWriter in 1985. Other companies that followed suit included IBM and Brother Industries.

Another notable side development to the invention of the laser printer was the rise of desktop publishing. With laser printers making it possible for individuals to print out high-quality copy, it has become possible to publish documents using just the desktop computer. Software such as the Aldus PageMaker also contributed greatly to the development of desktop publishing.

More improvements have been introduced in the last 30 years since the laser printer was first invented, but the principles behind the machine itself are still the way they are.

Using Household Electronics: Using a Laser Printer

How Laser Printers Work

Now that we know how laser printers came to be, the next question to ponder would be how they work. In summary, when we print documents using a laser printer, the light creates an image of whatever it is supposed to print and then projects it onto the printer's rotating drum. This rotating drum has a selenium coating and is charged electrically.

When the light of the laser beam hits the drum, whatever areas that are exposed to the light are rid of these electric charges. The areas that are not exposed to light eventually make up the printed image. These areas, which remain electrostatic, then pick up the particles from the ink toner. The heat generated by the printer melts the dry ink and then gets fused on the paper to create the printed image.

Typical Modern Day Laser Printer: HP 4350tn
Typical Modern Day Laser Printer: HP 4350tn

Xerography: The Magic Behind Laser Printing

How the laser printer works is largely due to the process called xerography. Xerography, basically, is a printing technique that works using the principles of electrostatics. Electrostatics, in turn, is a branch of scientific study that deals with electrically charged and non-moving particles.

There are seven steps followed in the process of xerography, and this is the way the printed page is produced with laser printers. These seven steps are:

1. Charging. The surface of the drum found inside the laser printer is covered with electrostatic charges. The charges are evenly distributed over it.

2. Exposure. The laser beam projects the image to be printed onto the drum. The lines or the text to be printed are not lit up while the blank spaces are illuminated.

3. Development. The charged areas of the drum, which make up the image to be printed, fuse with the oppositely charged particles of the toner ink.

4. Transfer. The image imprinted on the drum by the particles of the toner ink is transferred onto the paper that passes between the transfer corona and the drum.

5. Separation. The electric charges on the paper as a result of the transfer process are made neutral as the paper becomes separated from the drum of the laser printer.

6. Fusing. Heat and pressure are applied to the paper so that the particles of the toner ink become permanently fused onto it.

7. Cleaning. Whatever toner particles which were left on the drum and did not transfer onto the paper is brushed or wiped off the drum's surface. The wasted toner is either removed to a compartment especially reserved for wasted toner, or is put back into the main compartment so that it can be reused.

Despite the multiple steps involved to complete the xerographic process, the process itself happens very fast, with some steps overlapping the others.

Professional Electro Static Shock Safe Toner Vacuum
Professional Electro Static Shock Safe Toner Vacuum

Safety Issues Involved with Laser Printing

As much as printing with a laser printer presents a high-quality option when it comes to producing documents and image, there are also hazards that are often associated with laser printers. These hazards include:

  • 1. Respiratory hazards. Some brands of laser printers are said to emit toner particles into the air, and the toner particles can thus be inhaled. Continuous exposure to inhalation of toner particles can result in the irritation of the respiratory tract. In worse cases, it can lead to the development of cancer and cardiovascular problems.

  • 2. Shock hazards. Because laser printers use electrostatics work, not to mention the fact that they do run on electricity, there is a possibility of electric shock when some parts of the machine are touched. It is always advised not to have unnecessary contact with the rollers, metal contacts or wires of the machine.

  • 3. Toner hazard. The toner particles should never be cleaned with the use of a typical home vacuum cleaner. Toner particles are made to create electrostatic charges when they come in contact with other objects, like the inside of a vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner can explode or cause fire. A special cleaner is always used for toners.

Laser or Inkjet or Both - A Poll

Do you own a Laser Printer, Inkjet Printer, or Both?

  • Laser Printer
  • Inkjet Printer
  • I own both!
See results without voting
Modern Laser Printer: Lexmark T640
Modern Laser Printer: Lexmark T640

Caring for Your Laser Printer

These days, it is more common for people to replace their printers whenever they need new ink cartridges or whenever the printer needs maintenance or repairs. A lot of people find this way more cost effective because toner cartridges and spare parts can be more expensive than the printer itself.

Nonetheless, sometimes it does not make sense to throw away an old laser printer just because it needs a new cartridge or a maintenance check. This largely depends on the user of the printer.

Laser printers do need regular maintenance because their constant use subjects them to the usual wear and tear process. The required time between maintenance checks is measured by the number of sheets that the laser printer has produced.

When the output of the laser printer has reached around 50,000 sheets, is should be cleaned and vacuumed. The rollers should also be checked if they require replacement, although at this stage, the solution can be achieved by merely wiping the rubber surface of the rollers with a lint-free rag and the right chemical cleaner.

When the output of the laser printer is over 100,000 sheets, the fuser roller is often checked and recoated with oil, if not replaced. The oil helps in keeping the toner ink from sticking onto the roller. You will often know if the fuser roller of your laser printer requires replacement when the printed output appears ragged and uneven.

The laser printer has been around for more than 30 years. It has become commonplace in the office, at home, or at any place where computers are used. The principle behind it is described best by xerography and electrostatics, and while it is a very useful gadget, care is nonetheless needed when using the laser printer and to keep it in good running order.

Comments 9 comments

Jennifer Torres 7 years ago

Amazingly informative read! I have never actually been so fascinated by a piece of technology. This was a very well thought out and compiled blog, and I'm glad that I can actually attempt to fix my Laser Printer at home. By the way, Louisiana represent!!!


Michael Power 7 years ago

That first laser printer is huge! It's always entertaining to read a good, well written, and above all interesting article on this sort of technology. Great job!


Amanda 7 years ago

This was a very well though out article. I really appreciate the safety warnings about the electrical and toner issues. Those are 2 things I have never taken the time to think about. Thank you so much for such an interesting article.


Eggy 7 years ago

Brilliant article. I've always been quite interested in the workings of laser printers, the technology is really quite remarkable


Prashanth 7 years ago

Great article! very informative and offers practical knowledge. I would say the the author can contribute to wikipedia.


Laser Toner 6 years ago

Nice Post: Good article the information is helpful for the the safety warnings about the electrical and toner issues. Those are 2 things I have never taken the time to think about. Thank you so much for such an interesting article.

http://www.eco-inkjets.com/shop-by-cartridge-laser...


Laser Toner 6 years ago

Nice Post: Good article the information is helpful for the the safety warnings about the electrical and toner issues. Those are 2 things I have never taken the time to think about. Thank you so much for such an interesting article.

http://www.eco-inkjets.com/shop-by-cartridge-laser...


Michael Shamuyarira 5 years ago

Thanks for the useful information,I have worked on copiers for more than twenty years but has learnt a lot by reading this site.


HP CE250A Toner 5 years ago

This was good hub, nice information on safety issues involved with laser printing. Well written article, excellent content.

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