Explaining Laser Printing

How does a laser printer work? The final output of the two-week Physical Computing module was to design an installation for a children’s science museum explaining how something ‘technological’ works. Beginning with an interest in how things move from digital to physical formats, this project explains how a laser printer turns what we see on-screen, to words and images on a page.

Once the information has been sent to the printer, how does the ink actually go onto the page? What do the lasers do? How is the page rolled out? Understanding the principles of laser printing is no easy task for adults, let alone children. The important thing was to convey, generally, what happens inside of a printer in a way that would be memorable and tangible to children and adults alike.

The computer sends the document or image to the printer. The laser magnetises the area of the page where the text or image is to go. The ink is oppositely charged and will only go on the areas of the page that have been charged. These broad concepts are illustrated to children using this analog laser printer. They must complete each part of the process themselves; sending the information to the printer, charging the page, applying the ink. In doing so, the process of making something physical from something digital becomes clear and relatable.