What is a Drum Cartridge?

drum cartridge for laser printer

Printers are very complex, yet common, pieces of technology. We have a fairly sound understanding of how to use the different aspects of printers, including their inkjet cartridges and wireless capabilities. However, important parts of a printer, like the drum cartridge, are often not recognized. Drum cartridges are an integral part of laser printers, but not everyone knows what they look like or what they do.

In order to understand what they’re necessary for, it’s helpful to have a grasp of how a laser printer actually works.

What Happens After You Click “Print?”

extract cartridge of a laser printer to replace

When you’ve completed a project and clicked “print” on your laser printer, electronic circuits immediately begin to figure out how the images will be laid out.

A high voltage wire, known as the corona wire, begins to add a static charge to a piece called the “photoreceptor drum.” Once the drum has a uniform, positive charge, a laser begins to shoot onto the drum, causing a negative charge wherever it hits.

The laser is working to draw images onto the drum with a negative charge, so that the white paper becomes black wherever the laser has hit. An ink roller begins to dust the negatively-charged areas with toner, which is a powdered ink. Gradually, an inked image is laid out onto the drum.

As a new piece of computer paper rolls past the drum, its positive charge attracts the negative image that has been made on the drum. The toner is attracted away from the drum and onto the paper before it is printed. A fuser unit is the last stop in the laser printer, using heat and pressure to fuse the paper with the fibers permanently.

Where is the drum cartridge?

The photoreceptor drum is an important component of a properly-working laser printer. A printer with a broken or old drum will need to be quickly replaced to ensure that printing is completed properly. It is considered a “consumable,” which means that it is expected to be used up fairly quickly.

When replacing a photoreceptor drum, individuals can either replace it themselves, or have a professional come in and fix it and/or replace it. When this time comes, individuals will see that the photoreceptor drum is held inside by a drum cartridge. This cartridge keeps the drum in place and makes it easier to take out and replace the drum.

The photoreceptor drum fits perfectly into the drum cartridge, so it’s important that users know the brand of printer they have and what kind of drum they’ll need for proper replacement.

When it comes to conventional printer designs, the drum cartridge and toner cartridge are usually housed separately in the printer; more modern printers, like HP laser printers, house the two components in a single unit.

Installing Drum Cartridges

technician hand insert color copier drum in overhaul processWhen you purchase a drum cartridge, you’ll need to decide whether you want a monochrome drum cartridge or one of a specific color. If you need multiple colors, you can purchase each of these and replace them all at the same time.

Be aware of any protective covering that is attached to the cartridge and remove it before installing. Each printer design will be different, so it’s important to read the included manuals or call the customer support line of your printer’s company. You’ll want to locate the drum cartridge in the printer and pull the drum drawer out.

To remove the current drum cartridge, there should be handles that make it easy to pull it out safely. It is important to note that the drum cartridge drawer in your printer is light-sensitive and should not be exposed to light for more than a minute or two.

Any drum cartridge that is exposed to natural or fluorescent lights for too long may result in lessened image quality. Your new drum cartridge should drop down into the drum drawer in the same way that the previous model came out. Use the loops or hooks for your fingers and try to touch as little of the drum as you can.

Once you’re done re-installing, be sure to properly recycle your old drum cartridge.


Each of the parts of a printer have a specific purpose; the drum cartridge is no different. In order for a laser printer to work efficiently, the photoreceptor drum needs to remain protected and capable of receiving the charge and toner to create a clear image.

A drum cartridge ensures that this drum is protected, and that it can be properly replaced when the time comes. If you’re not sure how to properly replace this consumable, consider hiring an expert to do the job properly.