It’s the time of year when many of us take time to be thankful for things like family and food, and we also pause to reflect. While thinking about the origins of Thanksgiving, I got to thinking about the origins of something else that’s often on my mind—toner cartridges.
If you’ve never thought about what’s inside that toner cartridge before or how people began using it, you’re not alone. But it actually has a pretty interesting backstory. Let’s look at the origins of toner—what it’s made of, who invented it, and the future of this integral tool.
What Is Printer Toner Made Of?
First of all, if you’ve never opened a toner cartridge accidentally or on purpose—don’t start now. Like glitter, it’s very messy and unpleasant to clean up. Earlier printers used toner made of ground-up plastic and iron oxide or soot. The plastic, or more specifically polyester, is clear, and the soot gives it the carbon black color. That polyester is the same basic plastic that gets spun into the fabric like Travolta’s dancing duds in Saturday Night Fever or the polyester blouses you see hanging on the racks in your favorite clothing store.
Manufacturers don’t use iron oxide anymore since it would turn the colors in color printing brown. Nowadays, most manufacturers create their own blends that include specific amounts of pigments mixed with plastic dust.
Who Invented Toner Cartridges?
The process of creating the copies we take for granted today began with the inventor Chester Carlson. He developed the xerographic process, which he originally called electrophotography. Based on his work, Xerox™ premiered the Xerox 914 in 1959. Each machine came with a small fire extinguisher since overuse could cause it to heat up enough to burst into flames.
Inside the Xerox 914, there was a box for the toner, and special technicians would need to refill the box when it ran out. Refilling toner was tricky, and dust explosions happened if too many fine particles filled the air. And we won’t even get into the health issues that plastic particulates in the air from spilled toner could cause.
Fortunately, technology has evolved in many ways over the years. You don’t have to stand guard over the printer with your handy-dandy fire extinguisher, and changing the toner cartridge is no longer the kind of specialized skill you’d put on your resume.
The Toner Cartridges We Know Today
The toner cartridges we know and work with today is based on the development of the HP LaserJet printer. HP united all the once-separate pieces needed for working with toner to make copies into a single cartridge, including the toner, the waste toner gatherer, the roller, and the hopper. We no longer need a technician to carefully prepare the printer when the toner runs out, and changing the toner is now much safer, with no dust particulates in the air.
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