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What is a Laser Printer?

Katriena Knights
Katriena Knights

A laser printer is a computer printer that utilizes laser technology and can produce high-quality documents in black and white or in color, depending on the individual printer. Some types of laser printers, especially commercial laser printers, can produce extremely fast output, sometimes as fast as 200 pages per minute for a black and white laser printer and 100 pages per minute for a color laser printer. Because of their fast printing speed, laser printers are popular for use in both the office and the home. Most professional offices own at least one of this type of printer.

Unlike an inkjet printer, another popular option for personal and business printing, a laser printer does not deposit ink directly onto the paper. Instead, the printer actually uses a laser to project the image onto the printer's drum, which carries an electric charge. The parts of the drum that are exposed to the laser lose their charge. The parts of the drum that retain the electrical charge are able to pick up the dry ink, also called toner, from within the printer. This ink is then fused to the paper, using heat, as the paper rolls over the drum.

Laser printer cartridge.
Laser printer cartridge.

A laser printer is a high-quality printer that works well for most office functions. However, a laser printer is generally limited to smaller printing jobs. This is because the entire printing job must be stored within the printer's memory so that the contents of every page can be recreated in the electrostatic image that is produced on the printing drum. By contrast, an inkjet printer deposits small droplets of ink in rows, so that a large job can be paused between individual rows while the printer receives additional information about the image being printed.

Laser printer.
Laser printer.

Because of this memory limitation, a laser printer is not a good choice for printing large posters, large banners or very complicated print jobs that require a great deal of memory. Other types of printers, usually using a process similar to that of an inkjet printer, can handle these types of jobs more efficiently. However, improvements in technology and changes in the way a laser printer processes the data for each individual print job have enabled laser printers to perform much more complicated print jobs than they originally able to handle in the 1980s, when they first came into common usage.

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Discussion Comments


@Soulfox -- That is true, but remember than ink for an inkjet printer is not cheap and the stuff will dry up on you if you don't use it for some time. The ink is safe as long as the cartridge is stored in its original packaging, but that stuff has a shelf light when taken out and put in a printer.

You don't have that problem with toner. That means that a laser printer might be a good choice unless you are printing frequently enough to keep the ink in an inkjet from drying out. But, who prints that much these days?


I have never been a fan of these for home use. A laser printer might seem like a good choice at first, but that drum eventually wears out and is quite expensive to replace. Depending on what model you get, toner can be expensive, too.

I have always though an inkjet printer is a much better choice for home use. Ink might not be cheap, but it is a lot cheaper to replace than a drum in a laser printer. It's budget friendly, see?

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    • Laser printer cartridge.
      Laser printer cartridge.
    • Laser printer.
      Laser printer.
    • Multifunction laser printer.
      Multifunction laser printer.
    • A laser printer just after printing images.
      By: Maksym Dykha
      A laser printer just after printing images.
    • Laser printers do not actively use a laser on the paper.
      By: Roman Samokhin
      Laser printers do not actively use a laser on the paper.