Every time we pop a new cartridge into our printers, we’re stunned at the prices. People who own inkjet printers at least know that their inkjet printer cartridges contain ink which is expensive. The ones that own laser printers, don’t even understand what their laser toner cartridge contains?
What’s inside a laser toner cartridge?
Is it toner?
What is toner then?
Is it a liquid?
Some sort of a pigment?
Are there little bunnies inside dispensing colour when they’re not distributing Easter eggs and helping Santa in secret elf uniforms?
At Inkjet Wholesale, we know how much of a mystery this is for you. So, we went on a little quest to Printerland met Printalph the Colourful Wizard and found the answer to the question of ages: what is inside a laser toner cartridge? Here’s the secret recipe we were given.
What’s Inside A Laser Toner Cartridge?
If you’re a regular reader of the Inkjet Wholesale blog, then it’s likely that you like reading about cartridges and learning about printers, which just means that you will learn a lot more here.
Let us get the most basic misconception out of the way. Just because the laser printer prints on paper, doesn’t mean that it contains some kind of a liquid. It’s understandable why this misconception exists in the world. After all, inkjet printer cartridges contain liquid, pens contain liquids or at worse gels, and paints are all liquid too.
However, this isn’t the case with a laser toner cartridge which contains a mix of solids as opposed to liquids. This mix isn’t even same in all laser printers. As a matter of fact, sometimes, the mix varies from one model of printer to another even if those models are produced by the same manufacturer.
The reason for this is that different machines require different compositions and even substances. While the exact details of what’s inside the laser toner cartridge your printer uses may be different, the basic premise in all of them will remain the same. So, without further ado, here’s the basic composition of a laser toner cartridge.
- Polyester: Depending on the type of machine being used, a laser toner cartridge can contain anything between 85 percent and 95 percent of plastic. That’s right. A large chunk of your laser toner cartridge is simply plastic. There’re various types of plastics or polymers that can be used and have been used in the past. However, nowadays, a laser toner cartridge is based on polyester. It’s the same material that your mineral water bottles are made of. Older laser toner cartridges used to contain styrene acrylate but it turned out to be too toxic and less efficient. Polyester is expensive but it does help greater efficiency for the machine as well as environment friendliness.
- Polypropylene Wax: Polypropylene wax is like polyester i.e. it is a polymer or plastic. The purpose of polypropylene wax is to prevent the toner from sticking to the rollers inside your laser printer. It basically allows molecules to move freely between themselves and other printer components. These rollers are basically fuser rolls which are designed to melt the toner into the paper. Before the introduction of fuser rolls, laser printers used radiant heat. When this radiant heat would get out of hand, papers would catch fire. For instance, did you know that the Xerox used to give a fire extinguisher free with its earliest laser printers?
- Carbon Black: Carbon black is used to impart the colour black to polyester, since it naturally transparent. Carbon black is basically a collection of free carbon atoms which are not bonded to each other. In common parlance, we would call it soot. In the case of the carbon black inside your laser toner cartridge, the quality is extremely high which just means that it is of extremely high purity. Incidentally, it is carbon black which makes car tyres black.
- Pigment Yellow 180: If your laser printer is colour, then it will also need three primary colours. These colours can be combined in various quantities to arrive at thousands of different colours and shades. One of these primary colours is yellow which is achieved by Pigment Yellow 180. This pigment is made up of a benzimmidazolone compound.
- Pigment Red 122: Pigment Red 122 is used for imparting all shades of the colour red on the paper. Pigment Red 122 actually consists of quinacridone compounds which are very durable. Depending on how these compounds are used and in what configuration, they can provide virtually every shade of red. This is why this pigment takes on the role of magenta in a laser toner cartridge. These compounds are also used in external paints and colours.
- Pigment Blue 15:3: Pigment Blue 15:3 is actually for providing the colour cyan to the mix. This pigment consists of copper phthalocyanine which probably where the word cyan came from. Cyan is like a compromise between green and blue. When mixed with other pigments in the laser toner cartridge, the potential colours produced increase greatly.
- Fumed Silica: Solids have more friction than liquids. This friction can prevent solids from moving freely. In order to increase the flow capacity of solids inside your laser toner cartridge, fumed silica is added to the mix. Fumed silica makes these particles less prone to sticking to each other. Fumed silica is basically nothing but glass beads in the microscopic scale. Since fumed silica makes toner swift, they also increase the speed of your printer.
- Charge Control Agents: As their name suggests, charge control agents simply make sure that it’s easier for toner to retain the charge that has been imparted to it. They are important because during the printing process, toner particles can brush up against other materials that can make them take on charge that will ruin the whole printing process. Charge control agents could include zinc, chromium, or iron.
What’s With All the Plastic inside The Laser Toner Cartridge?
You’re at this point probably wondering why the printer manufacturers would choose to use plastic as opposed to liquid. First and foremost, this question is moot because the technology that laser printers use is completely different from inkjet printers.
At the core of the laser printer technology is plastic. More specifically, two key properties of plastic. The first is that plastic can be melted into the paper with precision and the second is that plastic can be moved around with static charges.
The technology used in laser printers has been dubbed xerography where xeros is a Greek word that means ‘dry’. The laser printer process is this.
- The image from the computer is printed onto a drum through static charge which is opposite to the charge that toner contains.
- Because toner has opposite charge, it gets attracted to the drum but only where the opposite charge exists.
- From the drum the toner is transferred onto the paper which carries the opposite charge again. As a result the toner is on the paper in the image (photo or words) that were required.
- Finally, this toner is melted to fix the colour onto the page.
All this transfer of toner and the final setting of the colour would’ve been impossible if the toner couldn’t be moved with electrostatic charge or melted onto the paper.