What is a Laser Printer and How Does it Work?

Ever heard of Superman using his lasers to print out photos? Well, we’re now in the future. A laser printer uses a laser to print out photos onto a piece of paper.

But, how does it exactly work and what are the advantages and disadvantages of using one?

In this post, we’ll explore what a laser printer is, how it works, some advantages of using one, and address some frequently asked questions.

What is a Laser Printer?

A laser printer is a device that uses electrostatic charges and a laser to print an image on paper.

Unlike an inkjet printer that uses ink to print on paper, a laser printer uses toner, a kind of dried powder ink.

The electric charges draw the image on the drum which contains the toner which is then transferred and fused onto a piece of paper through heat and pressure.

A laser printer connects with a PC device usually via cable or BlueTooth. Most companies use local area network (LAN) cables to connect multiple printers with an employee’s computer device.

Laser printers were invented in the 1970s by Xerox research labs and were first introduced by IBM. They were widely sold to offices as standalone machines to be used with computers before branching out to home markets as well.

Fast forward to today, the laser printer is one of the most common types of printers used in homes and offices. Although multifunction printers or all-in-one laser printers are starting to dominate the market as well.

How Does a Laser Printer Work?

illustration of the internal process of a laser printer
how a laser printer works (image credit: How Things Work)

A laser printer has a unique process compared to its inkjet counterpart. Here’s how a laser printer works:

  1. An image is sent to the printer to begin the laser printing process
  2. Positive charges are sent to the negatively-charged drum
  3. Positive and negative charges create a laser beam which draws the image on the drum
  4. The electrically-charged toner then sticks to the drum and transfers the image to the paper
  5. Toner sticks to the paper and is permanently fused using heat transfer and pressure
  6. The printer releases the paper and collects the excess toner for the next print

Laser printers can produce both black and white and colored prints. However, for colored prints, you would have to buy a color laser printer, which is usually much more expensive than a monochromatic printer.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Laser Printer

When considering buying the best laser printer, people often compare laser printers with inkjet printers by weighing the pros and cons of each.

Below are some advantages and disadvantages of using a laser printer.

Advantages of Using a Laser Printer

  • Laser printers have a fast printing speed, with some of the fastest models being able to produce 200 black and white pages per minute (12,000 per hour)
  • It has a fixed drum to form an image, giving you more precise prints than inkjet printing
  • Produces high-quality black and white prints
  • Able to produce higher volumes of paper, making them the ideal printer type for home offices or enterprises

Disadvantages of Using a Laser Printer

  • Laser printers take some time to warm up before you begin printing
  • There are high upfront costs but lower long-run costs
  • May experience toner leaks which leave a huge mess of powdery ink and ruins the printer, needing it to be repaired
  • They are heavier and bulkier with a lot more internal parts compared to inkjet printers, making them less portable

What is a Laser Printer Used for?

Laser printers are used for producing large volumes of black and white prints.

They are faster than inkjet printers and have a higher paper capacity making them an ideal machine for printing office documents without facing any wear and tear in the long-run

Despite having a few advantages over inkjet printers, laser printers aren’t the best for printing color photos.

When it comes to basic images and text – more specifically black and white documents – laser printers produce high-quality prints. But, for colored prints, an inkjet printer is better as it preserves the color and has finer details. This makes it better suited for print design as photographers and graphic design need rich color prints for their designs to look good. 

Laser printers are also heavier which means they may not be suitable for a home office but are much better suited for office spaces.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Laser Printers Need Ink?

No, laser printers don’t need ink. Laser printers use toner powder that is melted onto the paper to print the document.

Can Laser Printers Print Color?

Yes, there are color laser printers, a unique laser printer model that is suitable to print both black and white and colored documents.

Why Is It Called a Laser Printer?

It’s called a laser printer as it uses a laser to carve the image onto the cylindrical drum which then transfers it to the page using toner.

How Many Pages Can a Laser Printer Print?

Laser printers can print an average of 2500-3000 pages before the toner finishes, with some models being able to print around 200 pages per minute.

The page yield of a laser printer hugely depends on the types of documents you print e.g. text documents use up less toner whereas images use more giving you a different page-yield

Can Laser Printers Use Any Paper?

Laser printers can use most types of paper however you should ensure whether the type of paper will be able to handle the heat-transfer process.

Although it’s possible to use cheap office paper, the best type of paper to use with a laser printer is laser printer paper. This is a special type of paper with an added coating that protects it from the heat of the laser printer, preserving the sharpness of the print.

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