4. Printer Ink vs. Printer Toner

Its widely perceived that printers and photocopiers require ink cartridges in order to be able to print but, most people do not know, photocopiers almost exclusively use toner! Printer toner is primarily made up of a carbon powder that when heated fuses to the paper or other print medium. Carbon is used as toner powder as it does not fade over time and does not damage the paper it fuses with, meaning that toner prints are of a constant high quality. Toner also comes in four colours: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, all of which can be interchanged and mixed in order to form a wide range of colours suitable for any print job.

Toner is fused to the page with electrical charges that make the powder stick to the print medium using oppositely charged powder and paper. Lasers will typically plot out the layout of the image or text. As previously mentioned, once the printer toner is set out in the right place heat is applied that melts the toner permanently to the page.

Midshire Offer Toner and Inks for Photocopiers

Ink is slightly easier to understand as a print medium than printer toner. This print method requires liquid ink that is stored in the printer within a compact cartridge. The ink cartridges, which also come in cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, are then loaded into the print head, which comprises of microscopic nozzles. The ink is then sprayed from the print head onto the page, thermal bubble printers use heat to control the flow of ink, whereas piezoelectric printers rely on electrically charged vibrations to control the ink.

4.1 Comparison of Benefits

Similarly, with functionality and design, the benefits of toner and ink cartridges also differ. It is typical for buyers to weigh up the benefits of the two whilst considering factors such as print quality, the speeds that ink and toner work at, and the all over cost.


Replacement costs are normally a big factor when buyers are choosing between machines that use toner or ink cartridges, and with toner being gram for gram more expensive than gold or champagne it is easy to see why. Ink cartridges are initially regarded as a cheaper alternative to toner, however the cost of ink cartridges can rise quickly as they tend to last for a shorter period of time. Therefore, toner costs more upfront, but when compared with the production life of ink cartridges, toner can actually be cheaper in the long term, so make sure to try and calculate your costs and predicted print volume accurately. There are also toner and ink cartridge refill kits available that could mean ink would be cheaper, however they are a hassle to use. Buyers also tend to prefer authentic equipment from the manufacturer, in which case toner cartridges are a cheaper long-term alternative to ink cartridges.

Speed and Functionality

Speed and capacity is also a main reason for customers to choose carefully between ink and toner. In general laser printers are much quicker than inkjet printers, and with laser printers predominantly using toner, this means that toner could be regarded as the better choice when it comes to speed. The reason for this is because the electromagnetic process in laser printers is much more precise, and requires much less time than the tiny jets do in inkjet printers to plot out print jobs.

It is worth noting that New and innovative printing techniques are being developed all the time, such as the HP PageWide printer. These machines move the paper under a stationary print head, which overcomes the trade-off between quality and speed in traditional inkjet printers.


Lastly, image quality is an important consideration for some organisations, particularly when their prints are to be seen by vast numbers of potential customers. In general, the use of toner generates a print job in a much higher quality than machines that use ink. The technology used in inkjet machines does not match laser precision technology, as tiny droplets of ink can set in the wrong place or smudge. Toner then is also more reliable when it comes to image quality, especially when it comes into contact with water, and due to the built in fusing process of laser machines, toner does not need time to dry like with some inkjet printers.

Gel Ink

Most people know that printers and photocopiers use either ink or toner in order to produce prints, however there is a relatively new print medium available – Gel. Gel is a viscous liquid that was developed by Ricoh. GelJet cartridges hold a fluid gel that once in contact with paper, sets and dries, producing a completely solid and detailed image on paper. As the gel dries extremely fast they are particularly useful for high-speed, volume printing, it also speeds up the duplex printing process. The use of gel technology has many benefits, such as waterproof and sunlight resistant prints. Gel is also much more precise than ink and will never produce blotches or smudges that the older inkjet print heads can cause.

4.2 Cartridge Recycling

As of the 1st of January 2014, the new Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) recycling laws were introduced. These new laws make it illegal to dispose of equipment such as toner or ink cartridges without recycling them. There is estimated two million tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment discarded by homeowners and companies in the UK annually, so toner recycling is an extremely important element within the print industry. Additionally, the human cost of irresponsible cartridge disposal is something that can be ameliorated by recycling empty cartridges. Many cartridges in cities like those in China have a high environmental cost. This is because the incineration process is done with dangerous chemicals in order to regain useful elements and metals from the cartridge. These processes are a major contributor to groundwater, local air, and soil contamination.

With 97% of a cartridge being made up of recyclable materials such as plastic, metal, rubber, and paper then used cartridges can be reused and re-manufactured.


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