Paper is a much-neglected component of laser printers. Every printer uses paper, but little attention is paid to what paper is suitable, and what other media a laser printer can use.
The best paper for use in laser printers is high quality photocopying paper. The paper should be cleanly and accurately cut (cheap papers are sometimes cut inaccurately, and may deviate by 2 - 3 mm from the size claimed on the packet). Coloured paper may be used. Some cheap photocopying paper is very dusty, and should be avoided.
Lightweight paper is not suitable for most laser printers, and usually causes frequent paper jams, most laser printers are designed to work best with paper weights of around 80 - 90 gsm (grammes per square metre), or 20 - 24 pounds in US units. A few laser printers will use paper as light as 60 gsm (16 pound).
Paper must be kept dry, damp paper does not feed well, and may skew or crease in the paper path. Print quality is usually not very good on damp paper, and may have a patchy appearance. Paper should be free of dust and dirt which will contaminate the printer mechanism.
All paper has a natural tendency to curl slightly, as it is stored in large rolls prior to being cut. The curl direction is normally marked on the packet of high quality papers (usually by an arrow). Most small laser printers require paper to be loaded curl upwards (convex side upwards) to reduce misfeeds and paper jams.
Paper is available which has been drilled, ready for use in ring binders. There is normally no problem in using drilled paper in laser printers, but a little thought is required when loading drilled paper so that the holes are in the correct position relative to the text. Particular care is needed when loading drilled paper into a duplex printer, as the pages will be in the wrong order in the binder if the paper is loaded the wrong way round. Ensure that the drilled paper is free of any small circular discs (the holes) of paper before loading.
Coated papers are generally not suitable for use in laser printers, the smooth surface of most coated papers causes inaccurate feeding and may cause jams. Toner does not bond well with most coated papers. There are a few semi-coated papers designed for use with laser printers, such as Xerox ColorTech. If coated paper must be used, ensure that it is designed for use in laser printers, and accept that it may not work perfectly in your laser printer.
Most paper is "woven", however some companies use "laid" paper for their business correspondence, because of the very high quality image it presents. Most laid papers are not suitable for use in laser printers. Laid papers often misfeed and jam, and the slightly rough surface of laid papers does not contribute to an even and consistent print quality. There are a few laid papers, such as "Arjo Wiggins Conqueror Laser Laid 90 gsm", which are designed for use in laser printers. If laid paper must be used, ensure that it is designed for use in laser printers, and accept that the image may break away from the paper where it is folded. Hammered papers are not suitable for laser printing.
Occasionally it is necessary to use paper outdoors, where it will get wet and generally be exposed to the elements. Usually when paper is used outside, to display a notice or sign, it soon tears and blows away. There are papers which have a plastic coating to make them weatherproof and tear resistant. Most of these papers are not suitable for use in laser printers, the plastic coating is too smooth for reliable feeding, and may even melt with the high temperature used by some laser printer fusers. A few plasticised papers and adhesive labels have been designed for use with laser printers, but they are normally only available to special order. Contact your laser printer supplier or paper merchant for advice.
Recycled paper is available for use in laser printers and photocopiers. In general recycled paper works adequately, but it does not feed as reliably as new paper in some laser printers. Recycled paper is usually not white, but slightly "off-white" or buff coloured. Most recycled papers have an inferior surface quality when compared to new paper.
The majority of laser printers will print on light card without problems. There are two considerations in printing on card, the stiffness of the card, and its thickness. The stiffer a sheet of card is, the more likely it is to resist the bends in the paper path and jam. The thicker the card, the more difficult it is for the transfer corotron to attract the toner from the photoreceptor onto the card.
Small printers tend to have tight bends in the paper path, and larger printers have more gentle bends, so card is more likely to jam in small printers than in large ones. To avoid jams when using card, it is normally best to use the manual feed facility on the printer in conjunction with the face-up output tray to obtain the straightest possible paper path. Most personal and office printers claim to accept card weights up to 120gsm, but with careful handling most printers will comfortably manage 160gsm, and some will feed 200gsm card without difficulty.
A few printers have a "Thick Paper Mode" which can be selected from the operator control panel. This does not improve the ability of the printer to feed heavy card, but increases the voltage through the transfer corotron to help ensure good print quality on card. Where a printer does offer a "Thick Paper Mode", this feature should only be used when printing on card or other thick material, and should be turned off for normal printing. The higher voltage in the transfer corotron causes extra ozone generation, and may reduce the life of the corotron.
Transparencies (overhead projection slides) are often very smooth and may need to be fed through the manual feed facility on some printers. Other printers feed transparencies without difficulty. The main problem with transparencies is that it can be very difficult to attract toner onto them. The surface resistivity of transparencies varies considerably between brands, and different brands work best with different models of printer. Laser printer manufacturers normally recommend a particular brand of transparency for use with their printer, this recommendation is likely to be the result of extensive testing to determine which transparency gives the best print quality.
Self-adhesive labels are available for use with laser printers, but only labels which are designed for use with laser printers should be used. Labels which are not designed for use with a laser printer are likely to separate from their backing sheet in the printer mechanism, and wrap round one of the rollers, normally in the fuser, resulting in expensive repair bills. There are a number of label suppliers who supply sheets of labels designed for laser printers, the best known of these is Avery. Several leading word-processing packages provide support for Avery labels within their mail-merge features, and some allow the user to define custom label formats.
Labels are available in a number of configurations, including large labels which occupy a whole sheet, and sheets which have many address labels arranged in rows and columns on the page. Specialist labels for video tapes and audio cassettes are also available. The primary distinction of labels designed for use in laser printers is that the entire surface of the backing sheet must be covered. Labels which do not cover the whole backing sheet should not be used under any circumstances, as the leading edge of the label will peel from the backing sheet in the printer mechanism. Some manufacturers supply weatherproof labels for outdoor use, these are normally made using plasticised paper, so the considerations mentioned under the heading "Plasticised Paper" above also apply to weatherproof labels.
Almost all businesses need to print on pre-printed stationery, either letterhead paper, or business forms such as invoices. Using pre-printed stationery in laser printers imposes some special requirements which must be considered when ordering pre-printed materials. The fuser mechanism in a laser printer operates at a high temperature, and is capable of removing some inks from pre-printed paper, thus ruining the pre-printed stationery and contaminating the fuser rollers in the laser printer. High-temperature printing inks are available which are not affected by laser printers, and the use of these should be specified to the printers when ordering pre-printed materials. Embossed papers (papers with logos or type which are raised to stand proud of the paper) do not feed very well, and the embossed effect is likely to be spoilt by the heat and pressure applied by the fuser.
Most laser printers will print on envelopes, although usually the manual feed slot or a dedicated envelope feeder must be used. Problems arise when the envelope reaches the fuser, if the envelope curls (due to the heat and pressure) while passing through the fuser, or the edges of the envelope are not exactly square, the two sides (faces) of the envelope will not leave the fuser at exactly the same time, in which case a crease is formed on one face of the envelope, which is "ironed" in by the fuser.
Some brands of envelope are better than others in laser printers, and the printer user manual should recommend which types to use. Most laser printers require envelopes to be fed in a specific orientation (lengthways with the flap to the left or the flap to the right). If your laser printer manual does not give specific guidance on the type of envelope to use, experiment with different types to determine which work most satisfactorily.