The difference between a laser printer and a copier
Copiers and laser printers have a lot in common. The major difference is in how the image is formed on a photosensitive drum:
A copier uses a bright light and lens to focus an image of the original (actually, a strip at a time which is scanned in most modern low to medium performance copiers) onto the drum. Adjusting the lens-to-original and lens-to-drum distance is used to vary the reduction or magnification.
The digital image is generated from a bit map stored in the printer’s memory and modulates the laser beam. Scanning is mechanical – a high speed motor spins a multifaceted deflection mirror to get the X-axis and the paper moves to get the Y axis.
LED printers use a large array of LEDs as the image source but are otherwise similar to laser printers.
Plain paper fax machines use similar techniques in their printing mechanism.
Beyond this, copiers and laser printers are nearly identical (at least in principle) except that photocopiers use a positive process (dark areas in the original result in marks on the paper) and laser printers commonly use a negative process (a spot of light results in a dark mark on the paper).
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The most sophisticated machines are now actually scanner-laser printer combinations with buffer memory so that multiple copies can be made without rescanning the original, sorting and collating is more flexible, scaling and rotation can be done digitally, and other features not possible with simple copiers.
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