Photocopier in the Olden Days

Everybody knows what a photocopier is and how it has made our lives more simple. A photocopy is a machine that can make quick copies of documents and other visual image quickly and efficiently.

However, can you imagine what people had to do before electrostatics had benefitted us?

Before the photocopier, many people in the 70's and 80's had to use the lithograph duplicator. The lithograph duplicator created only a faint purple print, and a horrid smell. Wiloughby Smith -- a young engineer starting testing bars of selenium. With this he discovered that light conditions that differ from each other affect the ability of selenium to conduct. The first concept of a photocopier was developed by James Watt in 1779 thought it was not until later when photocopiers used static electricity. (Expert Market) When Chester Carlson invented the photocopier in 1937 (A. Tresscot) , using concepts that have already been discovered. we were all saved!

Basics of a Photocopier

We've all used a photocopier once in our life time. It's a quick and efficient tool. However, the real question is -- how does a photocopier work? Well, static electricity is very significant in the process of photocopying. Inside the photocopier there is a drum that can be charged with static electricity in the same way that a balloon or wool sweater could be.

The toner used inside the machine is made up of fine powder that is attracted to the drum when charged. The drum can also be selectively charged meaning that there are some parts attracted to the toner and some parts that are not. This is how we get the toner onto the drum and sheet of paper. The drum will selectively attract the toner, and once the sheet of paper is charged with static electricity, it will pull the toner off of the drum. The toner is heat sensitive meaning that the loose toner particles are attached to the paper with heat as soon as they leave the drum.

How Photocopiers Work

Each Step of a Photocopier.

  1. The drum on the surface of the photocopier becomes charged
  2. There is a very strong beam of light that moves across the paper that you wish to copy.
  3. The light that is shining is reflected from the white areas around the paper, and strikes the drum below.
  4. The pattern of the image is being left on the positive drum below.
  5. The dark areas on the original copy do not reflect light and onto the drum. This leaves spots of positive charges on the drum's surface.
  6. A negatively charged toner is spread over the surface of the drum. The particles of the pigment stick to the positive charges of the drums surface.
  7. There is a positively charged paper that passes over the drum, which attracts the toner away from it. This paper is later heated and pressed to create the image former by the toner and to the paper's surface.


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Market, Expert. "How Photocopiers Utilize Static Electricity." Expert Market. MVF Global Ltd, 2007. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. <http://photocopiers.expertmarket.co.uk/the-way-photocopiers-utilize-static-electricity>.

France, Colin. "Electrostatic Charge." GCSE PHYSICS. N.P, N.D. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. <http://www.gcsescience.com/pse10-electrostatic-photocopier.htm>.

Trescott, Alan. "What Did We Do Before Photocopiers." Ezine @rticles. N.P, 29 Nov. 2009. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. <http://ezinearticles.com/?What-Did-We-Do-Before-the-Photocopier?&id=3345099>.

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Meeker-O’Connell, Ann. "How Photocopiers Work" 01 February 2001. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://home.howstuffworks.com/photocopier.htm> 20 February 2013.