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Laser printers are a lot like photocopiers and use the same basic technology. Indeed, as we describe later in this article, the first laser printers were actually built from modified photocopiers. In a photocopier, a bright light is used to make an exact copy of a printed page. The light reflects off the page onto a light-sensitive drum; static electricity (the effect that makes a balloon stick to your clothes if you rub it a few times) makes ink particles stick to the drum; and the ink is then transferred to paper and "fused" to its surface by hot rollers. A laser printer works in almost exactly the same way, with one important difference: because there is no original page to copy, the laser has to write it out from scratch. Imagine you're a computer packed full of data. The information you store is in electronic format: each piece of data is stored electronically by a microscopically small switching device called a transistor. The printer's job is to convert this electronic data back into words and pictures: in effect, to turn electricity into ink. With an inkjet printer, it's easy to see how that happens: ink guns, operated electrically, fire precise streams of ink at the page. With a laser printer, things are slightly more complex. The electronic data from your computer is used to control a laser beam—and it's the laser that gets the ink on the page, using static electricity in a similar way to a photocopier.
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It makes a laser beam scan back and forth across a drum inside the printer, building up a pattern of static electricity. The static electricity attracts onto the page a kind of powdered ink called toner. Finally, as in a photocopier, a fuser unit bonds the toner to the paper.
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