Difference between laser printer drum and toner 

A printer drum and toner cartridge are components of a laser printer. The Toner cartridge carries the ink called toner that comes as a powder, while the printer drum is the mechanism that fuses the toner onto the paper when the user prints a document.

Different types of printer use different mechanism to transfer ink to the paper and laser printer are the one that uses drum and toner. The drum uses heat to fuse the ink and that is the reason papers from laser printers are warm due to heat.

Most people use the two terms interchangeably but they are different in many ways. In this article, we discuss some differences between the printer toner cartridge and drum.

What is a printer drum?

A printer drum also known as an imaging drum is a component in a laser printer that fuses the ink to the paper. It is a cylinder that is electrically charged and it transfers the ink from the toner into the paper by heat and pressure. Depending on the type of printer you have drum and toner cartridges can come combined or as separate components.

printer drum on an HP printer

What are signs that the printer drum needs replacement?

The lifespan of the drum depends on a number of factors such as types of toner, temperature, and types of paper used among other factors. However, for the ideal case, a drum can last for 5 rounds of toner cartridge change. That is an ideal case but we have some other signs that you can check for to know that you need to change your drum. These signs for printer drum replacement are

  1. Prompt error message: most printer comes set with a counter of the number of copies that a drum can print before it starts having the problem. When the number has been reached the printer will start giving an error message to replace the drum.
  2. Dark horizontal lines: the printout will start to have dark lines that are not part of what was printed.
  3. Printout that is blurry and smudged: the printout will not be clear or it may contain smudged toner that didn’t stick where it was supposed to.

What is a toner cartridge?

A toner cartridge is a container that holds the toner powder that is transferred to the paper by the drum mechanism. 

Printer toner cartridge for HP printer

The toner cartridges come in different types which are:

  1. Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM): these are the best quality toner and they are manufactured by the same company that produces the printer. They are made specifically for that printer series. They are more reliable than other types of toner cartridges available.
  2. New compatible cartridges: these are toners that are produced by third-party companies that don’t manufacture the printer.  They are cheaper alternatives to compatible toner for the same printer. They are not as reliable as OEM and they are not available for new models of printers. The printer has to be available on the market for some time to start having others produce these cartridges.
  3. Remanufactured cartridges: this is where the empty old cartridges are returned to the manufacturer who checks for any problems, refills, and sells them back. They can still offer good quality work and reliability like the OEM and new compatible types. They are also environmentally friendly since they are recycled and remanufactured.
  4. Refilled Cartridges: these are empty cartridges that are refilled without checking if they have any faults on them. It is a cheaper way of getting the toner but offers the lowest quality among all the other 3 types of toner. They are not as reliable as other types. The refill can be done by the user or a trusted toner supplier.

How long does the toner cartridge last

The duration that the toner lasts depends on the work being printed, the types of paper, and the quality of the toner itself. OEM toners will last longer than refilled. A document with more images will consume more toner than one that has only text.

 However, it is time to change the toner when you start getting faded printouts.

Difference between printer’s toner cartridge vs drum

Printer DrumPrinter toner cartridge
Used to fuse toner to paperIt carries the toner powder ink
Drums are replaced less frequently. They can last 4 to 5 toners before they require replacement.Cartridges are frequently replaced.
They are smaller in size compared to tonerThey are relatively large in size
Drum carries the mechanism that fuses the ink to paper for laser printersThe toner cartridge carries the toner ink.

Do I need to replace the toner or drum?

When you start getting a faded printout it is time to change printer toner. The drum should be replaced when you start getting dark lines and smudge on printouts or error messages for the same.

How long does printer toner last unopened

The manufacturer of these toners gives a shelf life of 2 years if the cover is not removed. After you remove the cover it can last for 6 months. However, if you are not ready to use avoid opening.

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