Differences between toner and drum

In laser printing, there is often talk of toners and drums. What many people aren’t aware of is that laser printing essentially requires both of these components. It doesn’t, however, seem possible to buy image drums for many printers.

The reason for that is that particularly smaller, more affordable printers are equipped with so-called combi-cartridges. Combi-cartridges consist of both toner and image drum. Every time you change the toner cartridge the image drum is automatically changed as well.



  • Toner and drum are often confused



Toner and drum are often confused when customers order replacements.


Toner is what provides the colour in laser printing. Toner is a powder made up of several components such as colour pigment, developing agent, resin and anticaking agents.


When the printout becomes paler or the printer asks for a new toner, you will need a new toner cartridge. Insert the new toner cartridge.


The image drum is the unit with which the printer or copier transfers the image onto paper.


Depending on the printer model, the drum is either built into the printer and available as a spare part, or the drum can be exchanged individually (often the case with Brother products) or the drum is a built-in component of the printer cartridge (commonly the case with Canon, HP and Samsung devices).


The image drum transfers toner to the paper. The transfer follows the rules of electrophotography. In simple terms: Toner is transferred to the image drum using rollers and an electric charge before it is transferred to paper and fixed by using pressure and heat.


  • Which component do I need?



Always buy the component that your printer asks for. If your printer isn’t demanding toner or drum, the following rules apply:


  •   If the printout shows stripes or repeating artefacts, it can be a sign of a defective drum.
  •   If the printout becomes increasingly paler and taking out and shaking the cartridge leads to an improvement, it is likely that the toner has run out.


Most small laser printers, for example by Canon and HP do not have separate image drums. The drums are a direct component of the toner cartridge.

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