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A simple guide to photocopiers

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You may think that photocopiers are really simple – you take a document, put it on the glass screen of a photocopier, a green light passes along the glass and after a few seconds, an identical copy of the document you placed on the screen comes out of the side of the machine.

But have you ever wondered what goes on underneath the glass? Do you assume it is just magic? Photocopiers are actually quite complex pieces of machinery, here is our very simple guide to how photocopiers work.

The Invention of the Photocopier

Guide to Photocopiers

Chester Carlson invented the Photocopier in 1938, but he called the process electrophotography. It took 10 years for his invention to be recognized, and in 1948 electrophotography was renamed to xerography. In 1949, the company Xerox was born and they released the first plain paper copier – Model A.

The functions and capabilities of modern photocopiers are vastly different from the original Xerox machine, with the ability to print on two sides of the page, staple documents, create booklets and send scans and faxes, all at the touch of a button.

So, how do photocopiers work?

After you’ve put your piece of paper (the master copy) on the glass screen of the copier and pressed the big green button, the machine takes several steps before your copy comes out.

Photocopiers work on the principle that ‘opposites attract’

Toner is a powder that is used to create the printed text and images on paper. The powder is negatively charged, and so it is attracted to something positive.

The drum, which is located in the heart of a photocopier, is positively charged using static electricity.

An image of the master copy is transferred onto the drum using a laser. The light parts of the image (the white areas on a piece of paper) lose their charge so become more negative, and the black areas of the image (where the text is) remain positively charged.

The toner (being attracted to the positive areas) sticks to the black areas of the image on the drum. For colour copies, the drum attracts the cyan, magenta and yellow toner. From these 3 colours, a multitude of colours can be formed.

The resulting toner on the drum is transferred to a piece of paper, which has a higher negative charge than the drum.

The toner is melted and bonded to the paper using heat and pressure rollers. This is why the paper that comes out of a copier is warm.

Watch this video for more information on the Photocopying process

Midshire have been supplying photocopiers and printing equipment for over 23 years. Our engineers and technicians are trained to manufacturer standards on Ricoh, Sharp, Lexmark and Riso machines. If you would like any more information about our range of products and services please contact Adrienne Topping on 0161 494 3377 or email