A laser printer is a common type of computer printer that produces good quality printing, and is able to produce text and graphics.
The process is very similar to the type of dry process photocopier first produced by Xerox. Indeed, the first laser printer was created by Xerox researcher Gary Starkweather by modifying an Xerox copier in 1971. The design was not offered commercially until 1977 and the high price of the Xerox Star 8010 inhibited sales. The first laser printer success was the 8ppm HP Laserjet 8ppm, released in 1984 which used a Canon Inc. developed engine controlled by HP developed software. The HP Laserjet printer was quickly followed by other laser printers from Brother Industries, IBM, etc..
An electric charge is first projected onto a revolving drum by a corona wire (in older printers) or a primary charge roller. The drum has a surface of a special plastic or garnet. Electronics drives a system that writes light onto the drum. The light causes the electrostatic charge to leak from the exposed parts of the drum. The surface of the drum passes through a bath of very fine particles of dry plastic powder, or toner. The charged parts of the drum electrostatically attract the particles of powder. The drum then deposits the powder on a piece of paper. The paper passes through a fuser, which, with heat and pressure, bonds the plastic powder to the paper.
Each of these steps has numerous technical choices. One of the more interesting choices is that some "laser" printers actually use a linear array of light-emitting diodes to write the light on the drum. The toner is essentially ink and also includes either wax or plastic. The chemical composition of the toner is plastic-based or wax-based so that, when the paper passes through the fuser assembly, the particles of toner will melt. The paper can be oppositely charged, or not. The fuser can be an infrared oven, a heated roller, or (on some very fast, expensive printers) a xenon strobe.
The slowest printers of this type print about four pages per minute (ppm), and are relatively inexpensive. Printer speed can vary widely, however, and depends on many factors. The fastest print mass mailings (commonly for utilities) at several thousand pages per minute.
The cost of this technology depends on a combination of costs of paper, toner replacement, and drum replacement, as well as the replacement of other consumables such as the fuser assembly and transfer assembly. Often printers with soft plastic drums can have a very high cost of ownership that does not become apparent until the drum requires replacement.
One helpful trait is that in very high volume offices, a duplexing printer (one that prints on both sides of the paper) can halve paper costs, and reduce filing volumes and floor weight as well. Not all laser printers, however, can accommodate a duplexing unit.
Many printers have a toner-conservation mode, which can be substantially more economical at the price of only slightly lower contrast.
Aside from these components, typical maintenance is to vacuum the mechanism, and eventually clean or replace the paper-handling rollers. The rollers have a thick rubber coating which eventually become covered with slippery paper dust and suffer wear. They can usually be cleaned with a damp lint-free rag and there are chemical solutions that can help restore the traction of the rubber.