Posts Tagged 'toner ink'

Photo Ink vs. Regular Ink

There are several types of inks and ink formulations when it comes to printing, but they all have the same general purpose; to deliver an image onto a piece of media passing through the printer. However, some ink cartridges will deliver superior results when printing text and others will yield better results when producing images and photographs. The differing results are caused by the variation of elements found in the ink mixtures. An ink cartridge contains a basic mixture of water, glycol (a carrying liquid), and dyes or pigments and are intended to be jetted or sprayed onto paper or media, eventually creating an image.

Differences

The main difference between photo inkjets and regular inkjets is the ability of photo ink formulations to provide lighter tones of each color, commonly being cyan, magenta, and black. A regular cartridge will dispense wider set ink droplets to give image colors a lighter look. However, this makes lighter colored printouts look grainy and even multi-colored when inspected closely. This is because regular ink mixtures can only dispatch color so lightly, being intended for brighter execution to give printouts more vibrancy.

Photograph inks, on the other hand, will produce much lighter tones, perfect for shading and coloring elements such as faces and skin tones that have light colors. Since these mixtures produce lighter color, the ink is not as widely dispersed and results in smoother printouts that can capture high levels of detail. Many photograph ink compositions also avoid pigmented colorants since they do not sit as well on coated media such as photo glossy paper.  Ink formulations vary greatly depending on the machine being used, the frequency of ink being ejected, and depending on the type of printing the machine is intended for.

Ink Types

There are three basic ink compositions, that mostly all inks can be categorized into including Dye-Based Inks, Pigment-Based Inks, and Hybrid Inks. Dye-Based inks are composed of colorants dissolved in a liquid, such as water or glycol and have the most vivid and rich finishing results. Dye-Based inks also have a wide color gamut, providing colors unreachable by other mixtures and are compatible with a wide range of photograph papers. Unfortunately these ink mixtures do not last long and fade easily with light and become runny when moisture is added. In general, a dye-based ink formulation printout will last between 5 and 25 years depending on the surrounding environment.

Pigment-Based inks on the other hand, contain insoluble powder pigments that are suspended in the ink composition and do not dissolve into the solution like dye-based inks. These pigments are coated in a resin-like mixture making them much more stable and giving them resistances to fading or light. A pigment-based printout can last anywhere from 75 years to 150 years depending on how and where the printout was stored and displayed.  However, pigment-based inks do not soak into media as readily and have a tougher time adhering to coated paper.

Hybrid inks are a mixture of dye-based inks and pigment-based inks, and are sometimes referred to as pigmented inks. Combining the longevity of pigment-based inks with vibrancy of dye-based inks, Hybrid inks can be used for a number of applications and often offer superior printing results. Hybrid inks are known as pigmented inks since they use dye-based colorants and pigmented particles together, modifying the benefits and weaknesses of each type. Pigmented inks will have a wider color gamut than pigment-based inks but will not last as long. Pigmented inks (or Hybrid inks) can last up to 75 years when kept in an archival environment, such as being behind glass in a picture frame.

Similarities

Most inkjet printers and ink cartridges also contain conductive elements to help shepherd or guide the ink to the page, usually reducing the size of the droplet in the process, for higher resolution printouts with sharper definition. Both photo and regular ink cartridges can be found with these assisting elements. The most common element that helps to shape and delivery ink is the Piezoelectric crystals. When a small electrical current passes through a Piezo crystal, the element will rapidly change shape forcing the ink out of the printer nozzles. The reaction shapes and can reduce the ink droplet size while forcing the mixture out of the cartridge and onto the paper.

Ink cartridges have differing elements depending on the type of printout being created, which will enhance a project and the overall quality when using the right selection of inks. For example, when printing text documents, a matte black ink cartridge formulation such as the Epson T054820, will yield the best results since the ink has a softer look, making the text easier to read for long periods of time. Using a photo black ink cartridge on text document printing will result in overly shiny characters or grayish texts that do not read as well. 

What is a Toner Cartridge?

Toner is a reasonably familiar substance to most people working in offices or for companies that have office photocopy machines and big industrial printers. These machines inevitably use toner to form images and text onto a sheet of media, usually being a plain white piece of paper. In other words the toner acts with the same purpose ink has, although ink is an aqueous solution whereas toner is in the form of powdery, dust-like solids. And due to the fact toner is a powder, cartridges should not be shaken as the material can spread through the air and adhere to unwanted surfaces, permanently dying them. Before handling any toner cartridge, make sure you are aware of the potential dangers and health risks involved with these units by clicking here.

In its early form, toner was a mix of carbon powder, iron oxide, and sugar. Eventually, to improve the quality of the printout, the carbon was melt-mixed with a polymer. The polymer is a thermoplastic that now comprises about 40 to 95 percent of the toner mixture and is crucial to binding and carrying colorant to the drum unit and substrate. The polymer is often referred to as the “binder” being able to hold the toner powder mixture together, carrying the powder to the transfer belt or drum unit, and holding the mixture in place for the heated fuser rollers to bind the powder to the paper with heat and pressure.

To better understand this process, let’s take a look at the different components that make up a toner cartridge and their functions. A basic toner cartridge contains several parts; one common component in each cartridge is the hopper which houses the toner powder until being picked up by a magnetic developer roller. The magnetic developer roller is a cylindrical sleeve used to transfer image forming toner powder particles to an image forming drum unit. This roller protrudes partially into the hopper and has several magnetic beads inside that will attract the toner powder mixture from the hopper to the roller during the printing process. As this piece rolls, the picked up toner is brushed against the drum unit.

The drum unit, having a greater static attraction, will once again pull the toner powder but this time from the magnetic developer roller. Any excess powder on the developer roller will be scrapped off with an MDR Doctor Blade before passing by the drum unit. The MDR Doctor Blade is a precision leveling blade that is designed to keep only one layer of toner powder on the developer roller. This ensures more evenly distributed toner and helps to prevent the drum and toner cartridge from clogging. The magnetic developer roller also has a secondary blade, known as the MDR Sealing Blade, to clean off any powder left on the surface of the roller after passing by the drum and before rotating back into the hopper section.

The drum unit itself is sometimes included with the toner cartridge in 2 in 1 or all inclusive toner cartridges. And whether the drum unit is a separate unit or has been included with the toner cartridge, the drum serves the same purpose. The drum is a photoconductive cylinder that contains a laser neutralized image of the project about to be printed out. A laser will actually neutralize parts of the drum unit, based off the desired image about to be printed. The neutralized parts of the drum will not be able to attract toner, which is how the drum forms an image, only being able to attract toner where desired on the image. Once the drum unit has picked up the toner powder from the developer rollers, the unit will then transfer them immediately to the paper substrate passing through the machine.

To keep the drum unit charged, a primary charge roller inside the toner cartridge rests against the unit, recharging the drum and eliminating neutralized areas of the unit. The drum also has a cleaning blade know as the Organic Photoconductor Wiper Blade. Any extra toner left on the surface of the drum unit after transferring the powder to the paper will be scrapped of by the wiper blade into the waste container. The last part to creating a printout involves the fuser rollers and some assisting transfer rollers that drive the media through the machine and are usually separately sold components that do not need to be exchanged as frequently as toner cartridges or even drum units.

All these components are necessary pieces to having a functional toner cartridge that can produce images onto a piece of paper using pigmented polymers, colorants, and carbons as the ink or image forming material being adhered to media. The current laser toner cartridge powders are comprised of a mixture of colorant pigments, external additives, and wax substances in addition to the binding polymers. The external additives can be iron oxide molecules, chemical release agents, charge control agents, and flow agents all designed to keep the mixture at optimal functioning compositions. Many toners now have protective wax coatings encapsulating each toner powder particle for longer lasting printouts and resistances to smudging and blurring.

Is too much Toner Ink Exposure Dangerous?

Most users of laser toner printers and photocopiers are unaware of the dangers mishandling toner can have to their health. The toner powder used inside each cartridge contains compounds that can be potentially harmful to humans when not handled correctly. The key to properly handling toner is being aware of the risks and how to prevent them from occurring.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified toner powder as a type 2B carcinogen with the primary ingredient in most laser toner cartridges being Carbon Black. Carbon dust, which toner is mainly composed of, is known to emit carcinogens which can be dangerous to humans and result in a form a cancer when inhaled. Normal operation of photocopiers and laser printers will not expose users to these possible risks; however a broken cartridge that explodes toner powder in the office can be a different story.  

To avoid overexposure to toner by inhaling or touching the chemical, gloves and a paper breathing mask should be worn to clean the mess. If any of the toner compounds get onto your skin, you should wash the toner off under cold water. Hot water or even warm water can melt the powder into your skin which can ultimately attack or transform bacteria resulting in some undesirable side effects such as irritation and itchiness. Inhaling the carbon-dominate dust may cause headaches, eye irritation, chronic itchiness, and even small growths on the tongue.

When laser toner cartridges inside of some photocopy machines overheat, the toner can conceivably become even more dangerous. First of all, the cartridge itself can severely burn the skin when handling the toner ink cartridge immediately after printing.  So do not attempt to replace toner cartridges that have recently been used to print with. Give the cartridges a few minutes to cool off inside the machine before changing the toner.

Secondly, photocopiers that use toner ink may emit carbon monoxide into the atmosphere when overheated. Inhaling a cloud Carbon Monoxide can cause an increased heart rate, severe headaches, and drowsiness. To prevent exposure to overheated toner cartridges emitting carbon dioxide, these machines should be used in well ventilated rooms. Opening windows and doors can also be useful to help dilute the air containing the carbon dioxide pollutants.  The most common occurrence of this happening is in offices that are consistently printing throughout the day. So be sure your frequently used laser printers and copies are in a well ventilated room before operating them.

Furthermore, some photocopiers are likely to radiate high levels of ozone during electrical discharges that occur each time toner is ejected from the cartridge. And regular exposure to high levels of ozone can cause some unwanted effects, similar to the effects of overexposure to carbon dioxide, including headaches, irritation, nausea, and even dermatitis in extreme cases. By ensuring your machine is operating in a well ventilated area will prevent this from becoming a potential problem.

Once again, the normal operation will not have harmful effects to users. And to eliminate the potential threats mentioned, be sure to use laser toner printers and photocopiers in areas with good air flow or ventilation, wash toner off with cold water, do not breathe unnaturally close to the machine when operating, and do not attempt to replace or change recently used cartridges. By following these fairly simple guidelines, laser toner printers and photocopiers using toner ink are relatively harmless and are necessary office components in today’s workplace. 


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