Ah, printers. Those magical machines you feed plain paper, and whatever you want to move from your screen to our reality pops out.
However, the magic stops whenever you run out of toner. What is toner? Well, it’s what allows your printer to print things that can show on paper.
All joking aside, it’s critical for anyone who uses printers daily to understand how toner cartridges work. After all, if you’re picking the wrong product for your printer, you might be breaking either your personal bank account or your company’s. Both are situations that are best avoided.
Suppose you’ve never heard of a premium toner or how to pick a toner for printers. No worries, you’ve come to the right place. Keep on reading for our full breakdown of all things related to what a printing toner is all about.
What Is Toner?
Before we start our deeper dive into the nuances of printer toners, let’s make sure we have the basics down.
A toner is a dry powdery substance that your printer can access through the cartridge. Monochrome laser printers will have a black toner cartridge, while color laser printers will use a mixture of four different colors: yellow, magenta, cyan, and black.
Then, we have the drum unit responsible for working with the toner cartridge to fuse the toner powder to the “printed” paper.
Depending on your printer and the way it’s manufactured, you can get a toner cartridge with a built-in drum unit. Or you can get one that’s sold separately.
Of course, the toner cartridges that come with the drum unit attached will generally be more expensive than a single toner cartridge. Yet, there’s no doubting the sheer convenience of never having to worry about replacing the drum every so often.
If you’d rather buy the drum separately, know that you’ll have to replace the units after three to four toners. In short, your separate drum will need to be replaced as well. They won’t be just added to your printer and left there for the lifespan of the machine.
The Anatomy of a Toner Cartridge
Now that we have the foundation set, it’s time to explore the different components you’ll find in your toner cartridge, regardless of the manufacturer and the model.
First, we have the toner hopper. This is a small container that creates the “house” of the toner. Then there’s a seal, which is a removable strip that helps prevent any toner spilling, especially during the installation phase.
We also have the doctor blade responsible for controlling the amount of toner given to the developer. And the developer will take the toner and transfer it to the OPC drum.
OPC stands for organic photo-conductor, and it’s the drum that holds the electrostatic image and guides the transference of toner to the paper. The primary charge roller (PCR) will apply a uniform negative image to the OPC drum. This is a crucial step that occurs right before laser-writing. Then the PCR will also erase the laser image once the job is done.
Finally, we have some auxiliary components, like the waste bin and wiper blades, with removed residual toner from the OPC drum and the printed page itself. There’s also the drum shutter, which is responsible for protecting the drum from the outside light and retracting the drum back into the printer.
How Does a Toner Cartridge Work?
When it comes to premium toners, you’ll find that the cartridge itself comes with a developer, the toner hopper, and the drum assembly all in one.
Basically, once you give the printer a new order, the machine will gather toner from the hopper and add it to the developer. As the developer is made of negatively charged magnetic beads, it’ll move through the hopper to collect the toner.
The toner will have positively charged particles, so it’s basic magnetism to attract the hopper. Then the developer will brush the collected toner particles past the drum assembly.
At this point, the drum will move uniformly over the paper. The paper itself will have a stronger negative charge than the drum, which will allow it to pull the toner particles off the drum and take the shape of the electrostatic image.
When it comes to the toner itself, two main ingredients do all the work: the plastic and the pigment. The pigment gives color to the paper, while the plastic will help the pigment stick to the paper as the heated plastic melts.
So, if you’ve been comparing laser toner and ink cartridges, you’ll find that this melting process is what allows the pigment to bind cleanly onto the paper fibers. This prevents the bleeding or smudging of colors.
Color vs. Monochrome Printing: What’s the Difference?
The remaining category that we haven’t explored yet is the differences between color and monochrome toners.
Generally, both work the same, except for the added pigments for the color toners. Standard color toners will come with yellow, black, cyan (blue), and magenta (red).
Having the three primary colors of yellow, red, and blue will give your printer the ability to create any color combination except for black. Without delving into intricate color theory, black isn’t actually a color. It’s the absence of color.
Having those four toner colors will give you a wide variety of options, specifically when playing with the different saturation levels, shades, hues, and lightness.
Of course, color toner cartridges tend to be a bit more expensive than the monochrome ones, just by virtue of the added color options you get.
Toner for Printers: Understanding the World of Toners
If this is your first time buying or looking into printer toners, we know that things can get a bit overwhelming.
Hopefully, our explainer has shed some light on what is toner and how one works. And if you liked our article, make sure to check out our additional tips and tricks, all available to you in our business section.