What Is a Laser Printer?

Laser printers do not actively use a laser on the paper.
Laser printer.
A laser printer just after printing images.
Multifunction laser printer.
Laser printer cartridge.
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  • Written By: Katriena Knights
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 01 April 2014
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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.


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.

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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