How does a Laser Printer Work? [The Laser Printing Process]

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Modern laser printers are both affordable and highly efficient. As such, they can be found in office environments around the world. But how do they work? Below is a detailed description of this quiet and dependable printing technology.

Step by step: Laser printing process

Phase 1 – Document Processing

When you press the “print” key in an image or document on your computer, the machine will automatically transmit information into the internal memory of your laser printer. This is where your printout info will be stored and then prepped for processing.

Phase 2 – Charging

During this phase, your laser printer will begin warming up. It contains a corona-based wire which will become hot after which it will transfer a static charge which is positive into the printer’s metallic cylinder drum.

Phase 3 – Exposure

When the drum is rotating, it will receive a charge which is positive across its whole surface. Depending on the printer brand, some models, especially the all in 1 type come with 4 drums that cater to the colors black, yellow cyan, and magenta.

The laser will activate and then beam into a mirrored chain where it will be reflected across the surface of the drum. This reflected beam will then produce an outline for the print through an opposing negative electric charge.

Phase 4 – Development

Carbon-based toner powder which is positively charged will be released gradually from toner cartridges into the drum as it rolls. Next, the toner powder which is positively charged will attach itself to the laser beam areas which are negatively charged (remember in physics that opposing charges attract). At the same time, the drum areas which are positively charged will be drained of toner.

Phase 5 – Transferal

During this phase, the media or paper will slide along the printer while receiving the positive charge from its transfer belt. As it continues moving along the drum, the toner which is negatively charged will become drawn into the surface of the paper and will then conform to the requested print outline.

Phase 6 – Integration

Heated rollers named fuser units will melt toner into the paper. At this point, the image or document will be imprinted onto the page after which it will be ejected outside the printer in the form of the final document.

Phase 7 – Cleansing and Recharging

Prior to the drum finishing its revolution, it will be exposed to a soft blade made from plastic which is electrically neutral. Additionally, it will be cleaned from the residual toner. Any extra toner will be deposited inside a special waste reservoir. Lastly, the drum which has been recently cleaned gets a negative charge which is fresh along its surface via the charge roller, which preps it for the next laser beam.

Laser Printer Variations

Gary Starkweather invented the world’s very first laser printer in 1969 while working at Xerox. Since that time, laser printers have become more advanced and affordable, evolving into machines that can be utilized by both small and large companies. Today’s laser printers come in three variations, which are multifunction, color, and monochrome.

Laser Multifunction Printers

Laser multifunction printers incorporate multiple devices, which include a scanner, fax, copier, and the printer itself. These printers are also referred to as all in 1 devices and are quite convenient since they can carry out multiple functions. They are the best laser printer for those that are looking for a versatile machine that is capable of handling faxing and scanning.

Laser Color Printers

The earliest laser printers were exclusively designed for white and black (monochrome) applications. However, advances in technology that have occurred over the last half-century have resulted in models that can print in full color.

These printers have become sought after in office environments due to their lightweight, compact size, and ease of use. Additionally, they can handle high-volume print jobs with ease and in the long term are more affordable than traditional inkjet printers.

Laser Monochrome Printers

These are considered the oldest and most basic laser printers since they will only produce white and black prints. As expected, they are more affordable than their color counterparts and users only need to purchase black-colored cartridges.

There are a number of monochrome brands on the market which are designed for specialized customer preferences and needs. Depending on the model you purchase, they may be able to print up to thirty-two pages per minute and come with paper trays which can hold a maximum of two hundred and fifty sheets.

Laser Printer Benefits and Drawbacks

As with any type of technology, laser printing has its benefits and drawbacks:


  • The print quality is superior to both dot matrix and inkjet printers
  • Laser printers are faster than both dot matrix and inkjet printers
  • Doesn’t make a lot of noise during operation
  • Has a lower cost per minute when compared inkjet and dot matrix models


  • More expensive than other printers, including the cartridges
  • Costly to repair due to complex internal components
  • Bulkier and takes up more space than inkjet printers
  • Lacks continual stationary to produce carbon copies

Laser versus Inkjet Printers

Both laser and inkjet printers have their strengths and weaknesses. The option you choose should be dependent on your needs. The advantage of selecting an inkjet printer is that they are much lighter and smaller than laser printers, making them ideal for home use. They are also quite affordable and allow users to print automatically without needing to wait for the unit to become warm.

Also, inkjet printers come with a wider range of cartridges, some of which are remanufactured and very affordable, which means it is easier to keep print costs under control. However, many print houses no longer use inkjet printers because of their ink composition, which makes the prints more vulnerable to moisture damage, smudging, and bleeding.

The printing speed of inkjet printers is also much slower than their laser counterparts. Finally, inkjet printers have to be cleaned regularly to prevent the nozzle from becoming clogged, and the print volume, in general, is slower than laser models.


While dot matrix or inkjet printers might be cheaper, laser printers have become the standard among those that need to do serious and professional print work. Those that are working on critical spreadsheets or documents that must be printed at a high volume on a monthly basis should definitely choose laser printers.

These units are versatile and can also be used to produce specialty stock as well as images that are high in resolution. Though the upfront cost might seem steep when compared to other printer types, you may actually save money in the long run.

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