We have all been making copies before a big presentation, or maybe making that final copy of our thesis, which is due in 10 minutes, and run into the copy machine’s most dreaded message since paper jam – “Low toner.” But what is copier toner? Why do copiers seem to burn through it so much? And why does there never seem to be enough copier toner around when you need it?
Basically, copier toner is an integral part of the copying processes. If we did not have copier toner, the copy machine could work as hard as it wanted and we would never see a single copy. When photocopies are made, very simply, first the drum charges, then a bright light flashes and reflects the surface of the document onto the drum, which is photoconductive. Next, is where the copier toner comes in. When the copier toner is positively charged, it is applied to the drum in order to develop the image. Because of these charges, it is attracted and sticks to the areas that are negatively charged (i.e. the black areas). Some have compared this to the process of paper sticking to a toy balloon that has been rubbed on the carpet to give it a static charge.
Though copy machines were invented in the last 1930′s, toner did not advance much until the copy machines until the 50′s arrived. It was in that time that RCA introduced the first liquid copier toner dispenser in its Electrofax copying machine. Liquid copier toner continued its rise during the 1960s and through the 1980s, when a company called Savin Corporation developed and sold a line of liquid-toner copiers that implemented a technology based on patents held by the company.
Copier toner can be simply black or have a variety of colors. Color copy machines are different from their black and white copy machine counterparts in that they use colored copier toner. Colored copier toner usually comes in four colors, called the CMYK color models. The colors are cyan, magenta, yellow and key. (Key is another word for black.) In printer houses and other places that routinely use color copy machines, or just print colors in general, the CMYK model is used because the colors are usually applied in that particular order. As a side note, printing houses and the like are a better bet than a standard home or office copy machine if you want rich, vibrant and well chosen colors. Printing houses know how to mix and match copier toner in ways that the layman could never dream of.
Interestingly enough, color copier toner was available as early as the 1950′s. As is often the case with technology though, color copier toner was not readily available to consumers at the time. The first copier using color copier toner was released by 3M in 1968. They called the machine the “Color in Copier.”
Be wary of safety issues when handling copier toner. People who are more susceptible to respiratory problems or chemical sensitivities, as well as those with lowered immune systems, should be careful handling any chemical based products, and copier toner is no exception. Copier toner can contain toxic chemicals and adversely affect people suffering from multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), fibromyalgia, asthma, and other immune diseases and dysfunctions.
Color copying can also be a concern to governments. Color copying technology has made it easier for counterfeiters to forge documents or even a country’s currency. It is for this reason that governments have began to include safeguards — watermarks, microprinting, holograms, tiny security strips made of plastic (or other material), and ink that appears to change color as the currency is viewed at an angle – into currency to prevent this problem.