Laser printers may seem like complicated devices, but the reality is that they are much simpler than they first appear. In spite of their relatively simple construction, they can print out very high quality images at a rapid rate. That mixture of speed and quality is the reason that they have replaced traditional printers in many homes and businesses over the past few decades. It’s always best to understand common technologies, so everyone should take a look at the basic mechanisms that allow these machines to function.
How It Works
The printing process begins with a laser, which shines on a rotating cylinder. The laser’s light sketches the image that is going to be printed, which pushes some electrons away from the cylinder. The parts that have lost electrons are attractive to toner, which rises up from a hopper inside the printer and sticks to the cylinder. When that cylinder comes into contact with paper, it attaches the toner to the sheet. After the toner is place, it goes through a finishing device that heats the paper to make sure that the toner is firmly attached to the page.
It is important to note that toner is not the same as ink. While the two substances are similar, toner is a powder while ink is a liquid. Instead of soaking into the paper like ink, the toner melts and sticks to the page during the printing process. That ensures that the pigment forms a solid layer on top of the page where it is clearly visible, which helps to create a clear and vivid image.
Why Use It?
Most users select a laser printer because they want to print out a large number of pages as quickly as possible. Since a laser is responsible for most of the work, the printer can move very quickly, especially when printing text in black and white. Even relatively low-end laser printers can often print at three times the speed of the alternative models.
The quality of the image is a slightly more complicated issue, since it depends on the type of image that is getting produced. In general, laser printers offer comparable quality to inkjet printers when printing text in normal sizes and fonts. That changes when the printer is dealing with unusually small text or embellished fonts. Since lasers rely on light, it is easy to create an image with fine detail by making minor adjustments to the laser’s position.
The ongoing cost of printing varies between different models, but there are a few trends that can help to guide consumers. In general, the cost of printing in black and white is lower with a laser printer than an inkjet printer, but only by one or two cents per page. The price advantage fades if you print in color, but that makes up a relatively small portion of the demand on most printers, so laser printers retain a small long-term cost advantage in most cases.