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What’s in Xerox Toner? And Production Printing Issues

We’re happy that this could be teaching grandma to suck eggs, so if you’re looking for a safety data sheet on the exact composition of your Xerox toner for your HSE and certification reports, please go straight to the question at the bottom where we’ll explain where can find them.

What is Printer Toner?

Toner is a powder mixture that usually comes in a sealed cartridge. Until recently, it might have been available in cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (known as CMYK). Color printers use various combinations and blends of CMYK to create a wide range of colors.

In recent years, it has become more common to find “new” toner colors — white toner (such as in the Xerox C8000W and later) and other specialty colors, including metallics and fluorescents. CMYW Prints on dark paper and media rather than light tones (the “W” for “white” replaces the “K” for “black”).

How does toner “stick” to the page?

Most toners use granular plastics (polymers) derived from petroleum or plants. When heated by the fuser, these plastic particles melt and “fuse” to the paper or other media.

The printer “knows” where to place the toner particles by forming an electrostatic image on a rotating drum. This charge attracts the toner/developer mixture from the cartridge to the “right” area of the drum (see below for more on developer). Through various further processes, the toner is transferred to the page.

Clusters of points that are too small for the human eye create the multitude of colors we see. Under a magnifying glass, you can see that one point in each CMYK toner contributes to each hue.

If toner contains plastic, what is Xerox doing to reduce its environmental impact?

That’s a good question, and one that we and our partners are paying attention to. Of course, microplastics are the subject of increasing research. We also need to take into account that heating the particles in the toner consumes energy during the printing process, which has an associated carbon footprint. There is also a key question of what happens to printed matter after it is consumed and whether we can deink and recycle it efficiently.

Xerox employs innovators and expert scientists to explore all of these challenges. At its research centers, it has made progress in many areas, including:

  • Finding More Sustainable Sources of Toner and Ink Polymers
  • Develop compounds with lower melting points
  • Reduce packaging and waste volume
  • Turns toner into a compound that can be more easily removed (deinked) from paper for recycling (Iridesse scores 100/100 for deinking, even on gold, silver, white and clear)

Finding the right sustainable solution means considering the entire environmental life cycle. For example, polymers can be derived from ethanol (itself made from corn). Still, the massive amount of energy (and thus large carbon footprint) required to make this a reality currently makes it unfeasible.

Innovation needs to embrace a more circular economy, but also deliver products at prices consumers can afford. As observed across the globe and across industries, this is not always easy to achieve. However, we do believe things are improving: Xerox is on the move. Learn more about Xerox’s quest for more sustainable toner and ink here.

What is printer-specific dry ink?

Specialty dry inks are toners, but different from what we’ve known before. They include metallic (gold and silver), white, clear and neon yellow, pink, magenta and teal.

What is Xerox Emulsion Aggregation (EA) Toner?

EA Toner is an advanced toner that further reduces environmental impact. They are energy efficient in both manufacture and use (lower energy costs per page). One gram of EA toner yields more pages than equivalent conventional toner.

Compared to other formulas, this toner may look similar to the human eye, but decades of research have made it flow better, blend better, and store better, all of which add up to better results. Clear printing effect. EA toner uses tiny sub-micron sized particles that are aggregated together (“agglomerated” fractions) to form the desired particle size and spherical shape. “Emulsion” is the chemical process that forms the toner resin. Small particles = sharp images. It also means less energy-intensive processes, higher reliability and faster warm-up times.

This is different from the process of making traditional toner. More traditional toners are made by mixing plastic into blocks with pigments and other ingredients. This block is then crushed into pieces, making a fine powder, which needs to be processed to remove pieces that are too large and too small. Traditional processes have been limited by the ingredients’ ability to withstand melt mixing, so Xerox’s new production presses are optimized for EA toner. Simply put, EA toner accumulates rather than breaks down.


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