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Laser Toner Cartridge

Laser Toner Cartridge

How does a laser toner cartridge work?

To begin to understand how a laser toner cartridge works, you first need to look at the toner itself. Toner is an electrostatic powder which has very little in common with traditional printing ink, except that both contain colored pigment. The other 'ingredient' are particles of plastic which melt into the paper when passed through the printer's heated fuser (which also explains why printed material is hot when it first leaves the machine).

Laser toner cartridges come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and with advancing technology more high-tech features are being built into the cartridges themselves. Some manufacturers have taken this philosophy to extreme lengths by building the printer head into the cartridge; leaving the printer to simply wind the paper on. However, at grass roots all toner cartridges work in the same way:


At the heart of any cartridge is a hoper, where the toner is stored. With traditional laser printers the toner is then transferred via the developer unit to the business end of the printer. The whole process is controlled by static electricity; the developer unit is effectively a collection of negatively-charged magnetic beads which attract the toner powder; in turn this is then captured by the stronger electromagnetic image on the paper. Little more than gravity binds the toner to the paper until it is 'fused' together with heat.

From a practical standpoint this means, faster, more accurate and (believe it or not) more cost efficient printing. Laser printers may require a larger initial capital outlay, but often represent a saving in the long-run. Toner cartridges need to be replaced less frequently and work well on economy mode.

Several big name manufacturers (such as Lexmark) have recently developed a range of toner cartridges which are compatible with other brands; offering top-quality printing solutions for significantly less than OEM replacement cartridges. Other cost effective (and environmentally friendly) options include remanufacturing, recycling and home-refill kits.

Today laser toner cartridges are a multi-billion dollar business, and when the financial stakes are this high you can guarantee that there are plenty of sharks swimming nearby. Newspaper column inches are filled with stories of unscrupulous vendors selling substandard products; so make sure you do your homework first.