Smart Printing: How Do Laser Printers Work?

Laser printer

Printing technology has improved in recent years, and laser printing is better than ever. Although inkjet printing can provide superior results for color printing and detailed black-and-white prints, laser printing is the standard for everyday use. 

Like any machine, laser printers have many moving parts. Understanding how a laser printer works is essential for taking proper care of it and extending its life as long as possible.

What Is a Laser Printer?

The two most common types of printers are inkjet and laser printers. If you want to print text documents or complicated art that can fit in a few pages, then an inkjet printer is a good option. On the other hand, laser printers can print much more quickly and have a lower average per-page cost, so they are suitable for high-volume printing.

Laser printers are often found in office settings or the homes of those who write long documents and write them often. Inkjet printers are used sparingly in the workplace due to their higher per-page printing costs but are common among photography enthusiasts, families, and anyone else wanting high-quality color prints.

Laser printers typically cost more upfront than inkjet printers, but they make up for that with a lower per-page cost. 

laser printer cartridge

How Does a Laser Printer Work?

Laser printers use static electricity, which is the same type of electricity that makes clothes stick together when pulled out of a dryer. The printer applies a negative static charge to a long, rotating drum, which then picks up positively charged toner in the shape of the letters to be printed. The shape of the letters is etched onto the drum by a laser reflected off a mirror.

The paper is also negatively charged and, since its charge is stronger than the drum’s, the paper can pull toner away from the drum. The charge is then removed from the paper as the paper is fed into a fuser, which uses heat to set the toner. This process happens so fast that when the paper comes out, it’s still warm from the fuser.

This is an extreme simplification of the process, as there are many more steps. However, these are the main steps you need to know to understand why laser printing is so efficient. It’s also the same basic process used by photocopiers, which were invented years before laser printers.

In fact, the Xerox 9700 was the first commercial laser printer. It was introduced in 1977 by Gary Starkweather, who worked at the Xerox research center in California. Laser printers were further developed that decade by Hewlett-Packard, Canon, and IBM. In 1984, Hewlett-Packard mass-produced the LaserJet and Apple introduced the LaserWriter so anyone could print high-quality materials.  

Gary Starkweather was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2012. 

Close up of a woman hand catching a document from a printer

Maintaining Your Laser Printer

Since they have so many delicate parts, laser printers that are frequently used should be cleaned about once a month. Before doing any work on your laser printer, leave the laser printer turned off for an hour or more. This allows it to cool down, which will prevent burns from hot parts. Also, wear latex gloves and a mask to prevent yourself from spreading toner on yourself or breathing it in.

Remove the paper trays. 

To clean the interior compartments, use a toner vacuum and brush the nozzle over the interior while avoiding wires and other electronics.

Next, remove the toner cartridge, then gently wipe it down with a toner cloth from an office supply store.

Wipe over the inside of the plastic case with a clean, dry cloth. Then make the cloth slightly damp and carefully clean the rollers and separation pads. Once the laser printer has fully dried off (both inside and outside), you can put back any parts you removed. 

The exterior of the laser printer should be dusted with a dry cloth whenever you swap the toner or have printed over 2,500 pages. 

Finally, there are some special steps for taking care of your laser printer in winter because it works best at room temperature. You will also need to wipe it down with anti-static wipes to prevent static buildup and printing issues. 

Although taking care of a laser printer seems like a lot of work, it’s well worth it—especially for high-end office machines that can cost thousands of dollars.

Making the Most of a Laser Printer

Laser printers are reliable machines that use tried-and-true technology to get fast results. Buying toner in bulk is the best way to get your money’s worth out of a printer.

We provide bulk toner discounts to make printing more affordable for schools and businesses of all sizes. We carry Epson, HP, Canon, and many other brands for a wide range of inkjet and laser printers and copiers. Make us your one-stop-shop for every printer in your office.