ColorSphere 3: A new breed of printing

HP has created a new type of toner that raises the bar on laser printing.

HP's latest LaserJet printers aren't exactly short of headline features. They're smaller, faster, more energy efficient, and up to 50 per cent quicker than the previous generation when it comes to printing out the first page. The new LaserJets feature JetIntelligence Toner cartridges that yield more pages than ever before, yet the most exciting thing about these printers isn't the biggest, but the smallest: the tiny particles of toner inside each and every cartridge which make all this good stuff happen. In its most revolutionary move since 2005, HP has rebooted the chemistry of toner with ColorSphere 3.

How Toner Works

First, a short primer on how toner moves in the cartridge. In your typical laser printer, a negative charge is applied to the cylindrical drum to prepare it for a laser beam.  The laser strikes the drum surface, creating one line at a time - a less negatively charged latent image. When the negatively-charged toner is transferred to the more positively charged areas exposed by the laser, a final image in toner is developed on the drum.

The toner is then transferred from the surface of the drum to the paper, by a transfer roller.  This applies a positive charge to the underside of the paper, which attracts the negatively charged toner from the drum, pulling the toner image onto the paper. With the toner held in place electrostatically, the paper is passed through to the fusing unit within the printer, where the toner is permanently fixed through heat and pressure. 

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As a system, electrophotography is incredibly effective, which is why it has powered everything from the first photocopiers to the modern colour laser printer. Over the last twenty years we've seen innovations with colour laser technology, often lead by HP. We've seen speeds increase from less than one page per minute to over fifty pages per minute, and prints evolve from simple 300dpi monochrome to photo-quality 2,400 x 1,200 dpi colour. Yet further progress is held back by two issues: the tendency of toner particles to degrade in quality over time, and the amount of heat required to fuse the toner to the paper.

Breaking down the barriers

Why are these issues? Well, in ordinary toner, the structure of the particles can break down over time.  As particles circulate inside the toner cartridge the outer shell can wear and chip. As this happens, print quality and page yields may be sacrificed. To combat this, more toner may be provided in the toner cartridge to ensure quoted page yields would be met and print quality maintained. This additional toner never makes it to the paper. Instead, it's used to support the wear of the toner over time.

And the heat and energy? First, fusing toner to paper takes a lot of heat and pressure, and the faster the paper moves through the mechanism, the more heat is required. This increases both the time the printer takes to warm up and the energy it consumes during printing.

A breakthrough for toner technology

The product of more than five years of development, HP's new ColorSphere 3 toner formulation attacks both problems. With ColorSphere 3 toner, a soft core of wax and polymer is held within a protective durable outer shell. As the spherical toner particles circulate and collide, this outer shell remains intact, protecting the toner from deterioration. Yet, because of the soft core of wax and polymer, this new tougher toner also requires less heat to melt.

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In other words, you have toner that doesn't deteriorate with time, and that also melts faster using less energy. What does this mean in practice?

  • Higher page yields and more value Because the toner is more durable, the additional toner used to compensate for the wear is now being used to print more pages. HP's new Original Toner Cartridges with JetIntelligence can produce up to 33% more professional-quality prints than previous generation cartridges. With the high capacity cartridges, the price you pay per print goes down and you don't have to replace those cartridges so often, either.
  • Faster first pages Because the ColorSphere 3 toner is low melt, the fuser unit takes less time to literally warm up, HP's latest LaserJet printers deliver the first page of a print job faster. In fact, they're up to 40 percent faster to print the first page after waking from sleep than previous LaserJet printers, with the new LaserJet Pro M252 offering the fastest first page out in its class.
  • Smaller printers Less energy and less heat mean less space required for the fuser unit and for cooling, which in turn means smaller printers overall.  As a result, the latest LaserJets have a footprint up to 40 percent smaller than their predecessors, and could actually fit wholesale inside the older models' shells. 
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  • Count on the HP reliability HP's printers have always been reliable, and this continues with the introduction of ColorSphere 3 toner. HP has looked at every element of the cartridge design and the printer mechanisms to optimise them for exceptional performance. This means LaserJet printers can take any reasonable office workload in their stride with fewer cartridge interventions.
  • The same great quality HP formulated ColorSphere 3 toner delivers all these advantages without compromising what matters most: professional print quality. Prints made using ColorSphere 3 toner are as vibrant, crisp, detailed and polished as you would expect from HP. No matter whether you're printing single pages or duplex sheets, in best quality or in draft, you know you can expect fantastic results. 
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HP's work at the microscopic level of the toner particle is transforming the way its printers work at every level. And with the new LaserJet printers available for as little as 149, even micro-sized businesses can see it in action.

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