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Toner is a special ink used by laser printers and copiers. It is dry and powdered in nature, but is electrically charged in order to adhere to the paper or drum plate, which has the opposite polarity. Unlike the conventional printer ink, toner powder is more durable and lasts longer. It is also preferred when there are a lot of text documents to be printed.
Toner mostly consists of plastic and pigments. The former is made from styrene or a combination of acrylic and styrene, whereas the latter are added to provide the color factor to the toner. Other additives are also added to provide the desired magnetic characteristics, toner flow rate, thermal properties, etc. Toners are manufactured using a precise combination of ingredients. Most toners are manufactured by "melt mixing" the ingredients into strands, which are further made into smaller particles. These particles are sometimes mechanically sorted for different toner size and size distribution. Smaller toner particles result in sharper images along with less toner usage. However, the cost of producing such particles is high using conventional methods of manufacturing.
Toners come in cartridge form for printers. When the cartridge becomes low on toner or becomes empty, the printer provides the necessary signal to have it replaced or refilled. A single toner cartridge is capable of printing thousands of pages. Toners are electrostatically charged in order to adhere to the printer drum and paper, which are the opposite polarity. On transfer to the print media either while printing or while copying, the toner is fused in place with the help of the heating element.
Toners are more durable and can also print or copy more documents compared to using the same amount of conventional ink. Initially available only in black, toners later evolved to support multiple colors and pigments.
However, toners are not preferred in high-quality image printing.