How ink toner affects prints quality
With the volume of laser jet printing set to rise from 10% to 25% of the world's out total output by 2010; ink toner is already big, big business. Money is being ploughed into developing high performance toner, with manufacturers keeping a keen eye on producing eco-friendly, affordable products.
As far as the consumer is concerned, it's a case of 'you get what you pay for'. If you have invested in a state-of-the-art printer it makes sense to keep it running on OEM ink toner cartridges, no matter what the cost. Cut corners and you can expect print quality to be compromised. After all; you wouldn't fill your brand new Porsche up with low-grade gas.
Most research concentrates on the 'transfer stage' where the toner is set on the paper. Toner is a dry ink powder that's a combination of pigment and plastic. Because toner is electrically charged it is attracted to the electrostatic image that's drawn by the laser. The toner is effectively 'captured' by the paper. It is then fused to the paper with heat. Much work is being done on toner adhesion as well as developing pigments further.
From the above it's easy to see why toner doesn't streak or smudge in the same way as liquid ink, but it does have one noticeable drawback when printing on textured paper. You may find that the image isn't properly set as the heated fuser rollers don't apply enough power to fix the toner that lies in the recesses. The outcome is that it remains a powder.
Low levels of toner can also affect print quality. If your prints look faint; first check the toner warning light; extra prints can be made by removing the toner cartridge and gently agitating it to dislodge any trapped powder). If the toner isn't running low, it could be that you have your printer set on 'economy mode'; incidentally a great way to increase the lifespan of your cartridge for day-to-day printing.