What is a photocopier?
The Photocopier, also known as the photocopying machine, is the equipment used to duplicate texts and graphic materials. It is able to reproduce numerous copies and at the same may be programmed to enlarge or reduce the size of an image through the application of heat, chemicals, electrical charges and light.
Introduced in 1949, the photocopier has evolved to become one of the most important equipment in the workplace and in most offices. The photocopier offers businesses a method of duplicating texts and graphics in the cheapest and fastest way. Throughout the years, technology has improved and replaced the analog and obsolete process of duplicating. Photocopying has taken a digital form and is now capable of reproducing documents in full color. However, nothing has changed much in the reproduction process; only that the mechanism is now built more durable, so many times faster and efficient, and more pleasing in terms of form factor.
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Instead of using zinc plate, carbon and sulfur, it now uses toner consumables. Today, photocopy machines also have multiple functions, features and can be connected to many other electronic gadgets, which makes it an indispensable office equipment.
Electrophotography (xerography) – It was Chester Carlson in 1938 who developed this process of duplicating technology. The process is called electrophotography (xerography). This technique is also known as “dry photocopying.” It refers to the use of photoconductive materials that become electric conductors when exposed to light. This technology is also used in laser printers and digital presses. Xerography is a 6-step process that involves 1.Charging 2.Exposure 3.Development 4.Transfer 5.Fusing and 6.Cleaning. Today, copiers using xerography are fully capable of using CMYK colors, producing outputs that are almost of the same quality in terms of ink prints.
Electrostatic Copying – Another technique used by copy machines is electrostatic copying. The process is almost the same with Xerography; the only difference is the material used. In electrostatic copying, the paper is specifically treated so it is able to pick up the toner in the course of copying.
The paper is made of Zinc Oxide combined with a thermoplastic resin. Zinc Oxide in paper reacts to the negative charges which results in toner sticking onto its surface. The rest of the process of Xerography applies. One of the reasons this process is not that popular is due to its use of a special type of paper that is pricier and likewise comes with a surface that is a little different from the ordinary paper supplies.
Dye sublimation – The introduction of color copiers also paved the way for the use of this new technique to replace the expensive electrostatic copying process. The use of dye-sublimation technique produces a more realistic output and one that is more fade resistant. Under this process, a long roll of transparent film that looks like cellophanes with embedded solid dyes of CMYK colors is used.
The dyes evaporate as heat passes the film and spread on the paper’s surface; then returns in solid form as it cools down. The dye infuses on paper, giving the output graded edges on each pixel. Dye sublimation is commonly used in photo labs.
As mentioned, photocopying Xerography technique is a 6-step process. Here’s how it works:
1. Charging – Inside a photocopier is a photoreceptor. It is light sensitive and made of a thin photoconductive material that covers a drum or belt. The photoreceptor becomes an electric conductor when exposed to light. It is charged by a high voltage wire or corona wire found parallel to the drum’s surface.
2. Exposure – Light is an important element in charging the photoreceptor. In analog photocopiers, light is reflected from an illuminated image and onto the photoreceptor. However, digital photocopiers operate with a scanning modulated laser or a light-emitting-diode image bar that illuminates the image to the photoreceptor.
3. Developing – Toner powder is used to develop images. It is commonly made of colorant and plastic resin mixed with iron and magnetized carrier beads in the drum. Toner particles create controlled electrostatic charges which allow the carrier beads to attract them on the belt and form the reflected image on the drum. Toner transfer is controlled by means of controlling toner adhesion using bias voltage. The negative electrostatic potential pulls the toner away from the image and draws them in the dark or uncharged area of the development zone.
4. Transferring – After the toner particles form a latent image on the photoreceptor; the paper then is exposed to the toner. A controlled but much higher electric charges from a second corona wire make toner reduce adhesion and allow transfer from the photoreceptor to paper.
5. Fusing – The transferring and imprinting of images is finalized by means of heat and pressure. The toner particles are melted and thereafter bonds permanently on the paper with the aid of rollers.
6. Cleaning – Here, the residual toner powder pulled away during the developing process is removed on the drum’s surface with a rotating brush or cleaning blade. This prepares the photoreceptor drum for the next print cycle.
Xerox Company released the first commercial photocopier in 1948. It was called the Xerox machine which in time became a trademark of photocopying. In the 1950s, Electrofax was released by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). It uses a special type of paper to attract toner directly onto paper to form the image. This technology was popular with copiers during its launch until the 1980s. The process was a lot cheaper than xerography; however, it was the cost of the special paper that made it an expensive machine to use.
It was in 1973 that Canon launched the first electrostatic color photocopier. Nowadays, photocopiers come with innovative features that make it convenient, energy-efficient and multifunctional.
Modern day photocopiers are designed either for stand-alone use while others have integrated fax, printer and scanner functions. Monthly cycles also differ to support low to high-volume production . The latest model feature integrated capabilities that allow users to reduce, enlarge and collate documents, as well as handle pagination, two-sided copying and even editing.
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Photocopiers use toner powder just like laser printers. In the early years, they are made of carbon, iron oxide and sugar mixture. Nowadays, carbon is mixed with polymer to improve its quality. Toner quality differs from manufacturer to manufacturer and in terms of machine made. Each toner powder made has a different melting point, toner particles, size and shape. Old photocopier models used to have toner reservoirs in the machines. This however was proven impractical and damaging to the machine. Copier toner cartridges were then made to hold individual toner colors (CMYK) which allowed for the more secure, easy and mess-free replacement of consumables.