EVOLUTION OF DESKTOP COLOR LASER PRINTERS
printers have come a long way since they were introduced for home/small business
use. The first HP Color LaserJet, was introduced in September of 1994. They
were very expensive and slow when printing, 2 pages a minute in color and 10
pages a minute monochrome (black) at best. The print resolution was 300 DPI
(dots per inch). The technology was such that it was only capable of putting
down one of the four colors at a time on the ITB (Intermediate transfer belt) belt
or drum. As the image was built each successive pass would lay the next color directly
on top of the first and so on until the full image was produced. The completed
image would be transferred to the print media by way of a secondary transfer
process, transfer corona wire or conductive rubber transfer roller . This was
considered multi-pass technology, as it took multiple passes to build the
printed color page.
Then single pass printers were developed
and introduced to the market. The HP 4600 was introduced in May of 2002. This
printer would utilize an ETB (electrostatic transport belt) . This printer
was capable of speed up to 17 PPM (pages per minute).This newer technology
would use four laser units (one for each color) and be capable of processing
all colors simultaneously. Using a direct transfer process from belt or drum to
print media provided much greater print speeds. This newer technology used an
ETB belt which transported the paper through the printer via an electrostatic
charge applied the paper which would hold it on the belt. Within the ETB unit
were 4 separate transfer rollers, one for each color. As the media was picked
up from the tray and attached to the ETB belt the image was built and transferred
directly to the media. No more secondary transfer process. Relatively small
color laser printers were now capable of print speeds of almost 20 pages a
minute!!! These machines were still relatively expensive to purchase and
operate. Toner cartridges were upwards of $ 150 per color.
coming years as more manufacturers (Lexmark, Ricoh, QMS, Xerox, etc.) started
getting into the exploding color laser
printer market, the initial cost of the machines kept coming down as the
competition increased. Now that the cost of the printers had been greatly
reduced, manufacturers had to find other ways to make money. Bottom line now
was on the sale of the supplies or consumables such as toners, belts, drums, etc.
The printers would ship with what would become known as “starter cartridges”.
These cartridges would not last very long as they were only partially filled.
So the purchase of a round of cartridges was soon required. This became the
industry standard. Some manufacturers would actually give you the printer with
the agreement that you would purchase all your printing supplies directly from
wave of color printers use this technology and now for some reason returning to
the ITB system once again? The print speed has been maintained with the use of
multiple laser’s coupled with a shortening of the paper path. They have added
new features such as a flatbed scanner, which will enable the printer to copy
scan and even send faxes. These are known as AIO printers or all in one units.
The initial cost has increased again with these added features and it seems the
supplies or toners have gotten smaller along with the physical size of the
printers .Some of the smaller units might not be cost effective to fix in some
cases. Units that have major parts that are not replaceable in some cases make
it impossible to fix.
The next few
years will be interesting to see which way this sector of the laser printer
market will go.