Easy Guide to How Digital Printing Works

As “CatPrint Short Run Digital Printing” suggests, we use a digital printing press to bring your designs and artwork to life. You might be wondering exactly how toner based digital printing works. We sat down with our Founder and CTO Mitch earlier this week to discuss how your files are processed and turned into physical prints on our Xerox iGen 4 Digital Press.

Xerox iGen4

Xerox iGen4

Taking out a lot of the of the technical lingo leaves us with these 5 basic steps:

  1. After you prepare your digital image file and upload it through the CatPrint website, the image file is converted into a raster graphics image. Whether the image file is a photo, a scanned piece of art, digital art, or a wedding invitation, all of the image files go through this conversion process known as “Raster Image Processing” or RIPing for short.
  2. RIPing creates a bitmap which assigns X/Y coordinates to each color and blank space (like on a graph). This bitmap is then used to guide a laser within the digital printer to erase the charges from a positively charged photoreceptor belt. The laser will only erase charges on the photoreceptor belt wherever there is supposed to be blank “unprinted” space.
  3. After the positive charges are removed, toner, which is negatively charged, is attracted to the remaining positive charges and the image is built onto the photoreceptor.
  4. The toner filled photoreceptor is then rolled over the paper and applied.
  5. After the toner is applied to the sheet, it is fused to the paper by hot “fuser rolls” which are around 400 degrees Fahrenheit!

These steps allow all 4 colors (CMYK) to be applied to the paper in one pass through the printer, unlike other printing options as inkjet printing. This whole digital imaging process happens in a matter of seconds, as the iGen4 allows us to print up to 400 5×7 wedding invitations per minute.

Advertisements

Do You Know What Toner Is Made Of?

If you check out our previous post on Toner vs Ink, you will know the basic differences between the two. But what exactly is toner made of anyway?

Carbon powder up close!
Carbon powder up close!

In the old days, toner was only made of carbon powder. But now, different polymers have been added with the carbon powder to help increase the quality of printing, specifically polymers called styrene acrylates and other various styrene copolymers coated with polyester resin (resin is an organic molecule that plants secrete).

This is what polyester resin looks like up close.

This is what polyester resin looks like up close.

 

This is an example of polyester resin art. Isn't it pretty?

Polyester Resin Art

This is an example of polyester resin art. Isn't it beautiful?

This is another example of Polyester Resin Art.

What does toner powder consist of?

Toner is not actually just one powder; it is made up of a different combination of powders put together in a very specific and precise way that allows it to be used in a laser printing process!

The Big Three

1: Iron Oxide

Iron oxide powders are able to create either positive or negative magnetic charges to become the needed opposite charge of the other toner powder particles during the printing process. It acts as a carrier so that the toner particles stick to the right parts on the rotating drum of the laser printer when printing.

2: Plastic

Heat sensitive plastic powders are melted during the laser printing process. This allows the toner to adhere to the paper and print the image needed.

3: Pigment

Pigment powders give the toner its colors, such as cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.

Toner powder... such pretty colors!

Toner powder… such pretty colors!

Other Ingredients

Groundup sand, wax, or silica hold the combination of the big three together in the toner. Wax is melted during the printing process to distribute the toner powder on the paper (similar to what the plastic does) while silica is sometimes added to the toner to stop the powder from clumping up together when it is packed in the toner cartridge.

The Future of Toner

Although they’re combined, these individual powder particles are very tiny, ranging from 5 to 15 microns (that’s a millionth of a meter!), which is around the size of your blood cell. Even so, there are researchers working on creating even smaller toner particles. That is because the smaller the particle, the higher the quality of the printed image will be.

Once again, this is just a hint as to a reason why your prints at CatPrint are so beautiful. If you are not ready to print an entire order, receive an instant quote from us and a free hard copy proof just to see the amazing quality of what your prints will look like.

Toner & Ink.. Not the same thing!

Toner? Ink?

Often heard used interchangeably, these are actually two very different things with the same purpose. Ink and toner are the materials that are used to create any printed image, but with different techniques and outcomes, kind of like the difference between writing with a marker and writing with a pen.

catprint q

Ink: For Inkjet Printers

Ink is used in inkjet printers for basic personal printing, like for home and school use.

Two Types of Ink… It matters!

Dye Based Ink

The dye is absorbed by the paper which provides bright, vivid colors, which is very good for color printing photos. Unfortunately, it can fade when left in sunlight for too long and smear when it gets wet.

Pigment Based Ink

These are made of resins (organic molecules that plants secrete) that are ground into small particles. Pigment based ink sits on top of the paper instead of getting absorbed like dye inks, which gives the print less vibrant colors. However, it is fade resistant, and is also resistant to water. This is typically used for printing documents.

Toner: For Laser and Digital Printers

Toner is most commonly used in laser printers and copy machines, which are usually found in a busy environment like workgroups instead of just at home. They’re required for fast, high quality, high production printing.

What’s it made of?

Toner is typically made of electrically charged dry carbon powder that is contained inside plastic cartridges. These powders can either based with carbon or based with organic dry granules with polymers.

When printing, the toner sticks to the paper through a heating process where the toner melts and binds to paper fibers, which makes it hard to smear, making it usually of higher quality than inkjet prints.

Why CatPrint’s Prints are so Awesome

Now you have a hint as to why your prints at CatPrint look so amazing! If you have yet to place an order with CatPrint, you should do so today! Here’s one of the very special things about CatPrint: you can put your entire order on hold and receive a free hard copy proof if you want to see what your print will look like before your entire order is printed. Click here for more information!