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Glossary of Laser Printer Terms


From A to Z, there's a lot of unique terminology in the laser printer industry.

We've created a compact reference guide to summarize most of the popular printer parts terms and their meanings.



Laser Printer Terms & Definitions

aftermarket parts Parts made by companies other than the original manufacturer (Hewlett-Packard). Be very cautious about buying aftermarket parts, because many of the parts being sold are low-quality and will fail prematurely. The only aftermarket parts we sell are parts which we have thoroughly tested and approved their performance. Read our article about quality parts here.
cold reset Cold resetting a printer resets the printer to factory defaults. Any settings you have made from the printer's control panel will be reset to factory defaults. (This reset includes the IP network address if applicable, so you may want to remove a JetDirect or Disable LAN before performing a Cold Reset.) Cold Reset Instructions : HP LaserJets.
DC controller A circuit board that controls the electrical and mechanical functions of the printer. This board is separate from the main logic board in most printers.
DPI (dots per inch) Dots per inch, a measure of print resolution. This number is more important when printing graphics than text. For example, you really can't tell the difference between text printed at 600 dpi or 1200 dpi.
driver Software that acts as a translator between the computer and the printer. Drivers enable the computer to communicate with peripherals such as printers. It is important to match the driver with the correct printer, for the correct application. Printers may have more than 1 driver available; and sometimes you must experiment to determine which driver works best in your situation. Read our tutorial on drivers.
duplexer A printer accessory that allows for automatic double-sided printing of pages.  Click here for a list of our duplexers.
envelope feeder A printer accessory which attaches to the front of the printer and is made specifically for feeding envelopes into the printer. Click here for a list of our envelope feeders.
EX series printer A nickname for the HP LaserJet 4, 4Plus, and 5 series of printers.
exit assembly The exit assembly (also called the output assembly / delivery assembly) serves to feed the paper on its final exit path up and out of the printer.
feed roller A feed roller continues the process of transferring the paper through the printer by "feeding" it deeper into the printer; often works in tandem with a separation roller.
formatter PCA A circuit board that controls the logic, receives the data from the computer, and breaks it down into a printable format. Issues print commands to the DC controller / engine controller.
fuser, fusing assembly After the toner is applied, the fusing assembly (fuser) heats the page and applies pressure so the toner partially melts and sticks to the page in a permanent bond.
imaging drum A rotating aluminum drum inside a laser printer that has a light-sensitive coating; when exposed to light the drum "captures" the information beamed to it by lasers and prisms and produces the image in dots or bits by changing electric resistance on certain areas of the drum.
JetDirect connectivity card An optional printer accessory with ports which allow a user to access a printer through an alternate path than the built-in direct connection ports.  In most situations JetDirects are installed in a printer to give it an RJ-45 Ethernet port, so the printer can be accessed via the network rather than via a direct connection.
low voltage power supply (LVPS) The LVPS converts AC power to DC power which the DC Controller can use to run the printer.
maintenance count The printer's maintenance count is intended to be a page count of the number of pages printed since the printer was last serviced. The maintenance count needs to be reset to zero pages whenever a maintenance kit is installed.
maintenance interval The printer's maintenance interval is a page count setting which controls at what page count the printer will display an error message asking for preventative "maintenance" (a maintenance kit). Some printers keep a count of the number of pages printed since the last time the printer was serviced. Whenever someone installs a maintenance kit on those printers, the maintenance count needs to be reset. Re-setting the maintenance count will keep the "maintenance needed" error message away, or if the error has already appeared, resetting the maintenance count should make it disappear.
maintenance kit Maintenance kits contain parts that should be replaced when your printer reaches its maintenance interval, or when print defects or paper jams start occurring that are caused by worn rollers, separation pads, or fusers. (Click here to see our selection of maintenance kits.)
monthly duty cycle This is the maximum number of recommended pages to be printed per month. Keep in mind this is a number set by the manufacturer and may be "over-inflated."  Use this as a very rough estimate of the printer's durability.
MP (multi-purpose) tray The MP tray is usually located at the front of the printer and can be used to feed many types of media into the printer. It is particularly useful for printing with abnormal-weight paper (heavy stock paper, labels, envelopes, transparencies, etc.)
OEM (original equipment manufacturer) When we use the term OEM, we are referring to parts specifically made or endorsed by the Hewlett-Packard company. Beware, some companies are claiming to sell OEM parts--but these parts may not be made or endorsed by Hewlett-Packard. Some of the "OEM" parts available are really cheap aftermarket clone parts which will fail prematurely. Because the term is confusing, we prefer to use the term "genuine HP parts". If you see something advertised as "OEM" or "genuine HP" on our site, that means it truly contains new, genuine HP parts. Read our article about quality parts here.
optional lower cassette (OLC) An additional input source for paper which can be added to the base of a printer to increase its paper storage capacity
parallel port A 25-pin connection port commonly used for older printers; connects a printer to a computer.
PCL (printer control language) PCL (Printer Control Language)—Hewlett-Packard's PDL (page description language). PCL is supported by nearly all manufacturers.
PDL (page description language) PDL (page description language)—Generally used to refer to the language by which a computer sends page information to a printer. Examples of PDLs include Adobe's PostScript and Hewlett-Packard's Printer Control Language (PCL).
pickup roller A pickup roller pulls paper from a tray or cassette and sends it into the printer.
PostScript PostScript is a page description language (PDL) developed by Adobe Systems. PostScript is the standard for desktop publishing. The principal advantage of PostScript graphics and fonts over bit-mapped graphics is that PostScript takes advantage of high-resolution output devices: a PostScript drawing looks much better when printed on a 600-dpi printer than on a 300-dpi printer. A bit-mapped drawing looks the same on both printers. Most recent laser printers have built-in support for PostScript. If your laser printer does not automatically support PostScript, you may be able to purchase a memory chip that contains PostScript.
PPM Pages per minute, a measure of print speed.
RAM Random Access Memory -- RAM built into a printer can help temporarily store data from a print job until the printer is ready to print the data. RAM is usually upgradeable; a memory chip can be plugged into the formatter board to add more RAM. The more RAM a printer has, the faster it can process complex jobs.
refurbished printer There is no industry standard for "refurbishing". Many companies try to make a quick buck selling used printers as refurbished printers. They clean the printer’s exterior, run a few test pages, and ship it to the unsuspecting customer. These printers have never been inspected by a competent technician and vital components have never been replaced. The result is a printer that runs poorly and fails prematurely. This is not the way we operate! We have some of the best technicians in the laser printer industry. Our refurbished laser printers are rebuilt to like-new condition. We use only best-quality parts, we rebuild the fuser (many companies don’t), and perform many other tasks to rebuild the printers. We take pride in our work! Over the years our techs have discovered the parts that commonly wear out and more importantly WHY they wear out. We then replace those parts with modified or updated parts that perform better than the original. This knowledge only comes from years of experience rebuilding printers. Please note that occasionally printers will have minor scratches or fading on the exterior panels but this in no way affects the mechanical performance of the printer. (Click here to see our list of refurbished printers.)
resolution Refers to the sharpness and clarity of an image. In the case of laser printers, the resolution indicates the number of dots printed on the page per inch. For example, a 600-dpi (dots per inch) printer is one that is capable of printing 600 distinct dots in a line 1 inch long. This means it can print 360,000 dots per square inch. Current standard resolutions are 600-dpi and 1200-dpi.  The quality difference between 600-dpi and 1200-dpi is not noticeable on text; usually 1200-dpi is only an improvement when printing photo-quality images.
separation pad A separation pad works with a pickup roller to prevent more than one piece of paper from being "picked up" at once.
separation roller A separation roller works with a pickup roller or feed roller to prevent more than one piece of paper being pulled into the printer. While the pickup roller tugs a single piece of paper into the printer, the separation roller spins against the remaining stack of paper to prevent any more pages from being pulled in.
service mode Service mode is intended for printer technicians but can be a useful printer function for changing various "hidden" printer settings. From an end user's standpoint, the printer's service mode is primarily used for resetting the maintenance count. Typically to force the printer into service mode, the printer must be turned off and, as it is being restarted, a series of buttons must be pressed. (Click here for instructions on entering service mode.)
toner, toner cartridge Toner consists of a dry, powdery substance (used by copy machines and laser printers) that is electrically charged so that it adheres to a drum, plate, or piece of paper charged with the opposite polarity. For most laser printers, the toner comes in a cartridge that you insert into the printer. Typically, you can print thousands of pages with a single cartridge. There are OEM cartridges (made by the original printer manufacturer) and there are compatible cartridges (usually remanufactured or new aftermarket).  Compatible cartridges can vary in quality: PrinterTechs carries only premium quality compatible cartridges; from our testing, our cartridges are literally the best cartridges in the toner industry.  (Click here to check out our toner cartridges.)
transfer roller A roller used in a laser printer to attract toner particles away from the imaging drum and onto the piece of paper.
WX series printer A nickname for both the HP LaserJet 5si and HP LaserJet 8000 series of printers.