Both toner and ink can be used to print images onto various types of media. However, the process of how each is applied and the machines that use them are entirely different. Ink is used by inkjet printers and toner is used by laser printers; toner cartridges aren’t compatible with ink printers, and vice versa. Both are highly capable machines, and each has areas in which they excel over the other.  


Advantages of Toner

When you go looking for printer ink supplies and toner cartridges, you’ll immediately notice that toner cartridges are far more expensive than ink cartridges. This is for good reason: toner cartridges are far larger than their ink cartridge counterparts. 

This means that the page count of a toner cartridge is in the thousands, while the page count of an industrial ink cartridge may only be in the low hundreds. This large cost up front saves you money in the long run on a cost-per-page basis.

Laser printers are the go-to option when speed is needed–nothing prints faster than a laser printer. High-volume newsletters and print jobs that require hundreds or thousands of copies to be produced as fast as possible are excellent reasons to have a laser printer in your arsenal. 


Disadvantages of Toner

Toner doesn’t stand up well to weather, so you won’t want to make a sign using toner. Furthermore, a laser printer gets extremely hot compared to an inkjet printer. Try running a piece of vinyl through your laser printer and you’ll quickly have an extremely expensive paperweight as the vinyl melts and solidifies inside the inner workings of the machine. 

It used to be that a print shop owner wouldn’t even consider printing something in high resolution using a laser printer, but the laser print industry has made great strides and is, in many cases, capable of high-resolution printing. 

That being said, ask any sign-maker with years of experience, and they will tell you they will always choose the inkjet printer for work that demands the highest levels of detail and color fidelity. This is because a laser toner printer cannot reach the level of detail an inkjet is capable of. 


How Do Laser Printers Work?

There is a common misconception that laser printers spray toner onto the paper and then burn the toner into the paper using a laser. In reality, what the 'laser' in a laser printer actually does is draw an image of what you want printed onto a rotating drum. The 'image' is made of charged electrical particles. 

Next, the drum is rolled through the toner powder. The toner powder sticks to the parts of the drum that have been electrically charged, a piece of paper is rolled over the drum. and the toner adheres to the paper. 

Finally, the paper is passed between a set of two high-temperature rollers that press and heat the toner, thereby causing it to bond with the paper. This is this final high-temperature step that limits the laser printer in the types of media it can print onto. Anything that can melt will, so you have to be absolutely sure you’re using an approved print media before you start. 


Making the Decision

Toner and ink printers have many similarities and differences. Determining which machine is best for you will depend on the needs of your business and your clients–Airmark is ready to help!