Are laser printers bad for your health? It’s a question that was once raised every three or four years, but now rarely gets a mention – printer manufacturers have solved the problem of ozone emissions, and concerns about
the risks of inhaling micro-fine toner particles appear to have been shrugged off. I was reminded of the old fears at the launch of HP’s new ColorSphere 3 toner when it was pointed out that because HP’s new toner has a lower melting and fusing temperature, there was a risk that cartridges re-filled with higher melting third party toner might not fuse to the page properly resulting in excessive toner dust in and around the printer and ineligible print-outs. Now, California company Clean Strands has raised the health question in relation to 3D printing, pointing out quite reasonably that there ought to be a testing and labelling scheme to provide reassurance that melting 3D filament doesn’t add any nasty chemicals to the air we breathe. The advice always was to use printers in well ventilated areas. This is fine as far as it goes; just don’t open the windows and let in the diesel fumes..
Today’s compact, energy-efficient laser printers are a world away from the hot, noisy devices of 10 or 20 years ago. Even so, some who remember those early machines are still unsettled by the smell of a hot laser printer and, given the choice, would elect not to sit next to one. This is one reason why home workers operating in cramped surroundings often prefer inkjet devices. With new generation business inkjets, they don’t even have to put up with slow print speeds and high running costs. Not surprisingly, sales have been going through the roof. IDC printer shipment figures for the first quarter of the year show that UK business inkjet sales were 18.8% higher than in the same period last year. With continued activity in this area, including the creation by Brother of a complete range of 50-100ppm mono devices (see page 19), the availability of Epson WorkForce Pro MFPs as part of a managed print service (reported in the last issue) and new HP A3 printers (see page 13), the outlook for business inkjet looks rosy – or should that be healthy?
Problems with emissions are much more prevalent in the commercial printing sector, where UV inkjet devices have been gaining ground, partly because they virtually eliminate VOCs. EFI ‘cool cure’ UV inkjet printers, featured on the front cover, have an additional environmental benefit in their use of LED rather than mercury lamps. With an EU ban on mercury lighting products in the offing, this is another factor that print centres will need to take into account when choosing which wide format printing technology to invest in.
James Goulding, Editor
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