Glossary of Photocopier Terms, How it Works & History

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How Photocopier Works and History of | How it Works | History of the Photocopier

glossary of terms for photocopiersCanon Photocopier Model Nos.

Reference: iRC2380i / iR5880Ci / iR3225N / CLC4040 / MF6580PL

iR: imageRunner - Canon office reprographics product line

C: Colour / Ci (at the end) Hybrid Colour

23 / 58 / 25(N): Copier speed - copies per minute

i / N: Networked - network-ready for printer use

CLC: Colour Laser Copier - High quality full colour from Canon

MF: Multifunctional (applicable to desktop multifunctionals only)

PL: PCL5e/6 compatibility (applicable to desktop multifunctionals only)

Toshiba Photocopier Model Nos.

Reference: eStudio232 / 853 / 4520c / 451c

23(2) / 85(3) 45(20c) 45(1c): Copier Speed - copies per minute eg. 23cpm (ppm)

c: Colour - 4520c = Full Colour / 451c = Hybrid Colour

cpm / ppm

Copies per minute / pages per minute. This is a direct reflection of the copier speed. A full colour system will have a closer colour copy per minute output to its black and white output than a hybrid colour machine that will have a considerably lower colour speed output to its mono output speed. Eg. Full Colour: 45 ppm mono, 40 ppm colour / Hybrid: 45 ppm mono, 11 ppm colour. Also spm - scans per minute.

ADF - Automatic Document Feeder

An automatic document feeder (ADF) allows you to copy multi-page documents without having to lift and lower the cover for every sheet you copy. Instead, the stack of originals can be placed into the feeder and, by pressing start, the ADF automatically pulls each page through.

RADF - Reverse Automatic Document Feeder

A reverse document feeder (RADF) is used for double-sided or duplex copying. Pages are flipped inside the feeder to scan the other side. Also known as Recirculating Automatic Document Feeder. Also ARDF - Automatic Reverse Document Feeder.

LCF - Large Capacity Feeder

Extra large paper cassette that sits along-side the photocopier and holds a massive amount of paper for long uninterrupted print jobs. The LCF for the Toshiba 5520c holds 2320 sheets, giving the machine a maximum 5900 paper capacity.

Platen Glass

Where the original is liable to jamming in the document feeder due to frayed edges, stapling, deterioration or unsuitable texture, the platen glass is used. In this case the original is placed upon the glass underneath the document feeder for simplex (single-sided) copying. By default, after scanning this side, the photocopier will then ask for the next original for example if required for duplex copying. This can be dismissed or set otherwise if not.

Duplex Copying - Double-Sided

Duplex, or double-sided, is a useful feature that enables printing on both sides of every sheet. The benefits also include saving paper, lowering cost, reduced filing and the time involved if you were to produce double-sided copies manually. On an environmental level, you're using less paper. If our dependence on paper is reduced then less trees need to be felled for our business consumption as is the energy involved in paper production.

ADU - Automatic Duplexing Unit

This is a dedicated unit that sits between the paper supply and the fuser that's job is to flip the paper onto its reverse side for double-sided printing. Many modern machines have a ADU already fitted or it can be an optional accessory for smaller modular copiers.

Sorter / Finisher

The latest digital copiers and printers by Canon and Toshiba can sort copied sets electronically without the use of sorter bins. Instead of separate bins, the copies are placed in a single tray at a right angle or offset from each other, allowing you to easily identify where one set ends and another begins. Bin-free sorting allows you to make unlimited sets at one time, rather than only as many sets as you have sorter bins.

You may want a finisher if you want your office copier to copy many sets of multi-page documents. The most familiar type of finisher is the automatic stapler, which can save an immense amount of time. More advanced versions include three-hole punches, saddle stitch binding, folding, and more. Finishers are optional on many machines, and vary in price according to functions.

Sorter is the older term used for the older analogue copiers where the option was solely for sorting or grouping documents by collation (also referred to as a collater). Finisher is used nowadays to represent the more advanced finishing options available such as booklet, hole-punch, c-fold, z-fold, saddle-stitching and binding.

Finisher Stapling

There are many options available today such as top left, centre edge, saddle-stitch / fold and bind, bottom-left. Edge stapling often has binding options for use of 1 or 2 staples.

Sort / Group - the difference

Sorting - Where a stack of originals is placed on the document feeder the resulting copies of each original are stacked together as per number of copies selected.

Grouping - The resulting copies are stacked together in the order of the originals. Number of copies requested results in number of copied stacks.

Offset Sorting

As with the traditional method (where copies are fed into sorter bins) the copies are now offset into a single tray for easy retrieval, either sorted individually or in groups.

Bridge Unit

The bridging unit is an additional module that some photocopiers require in order to bridge from the copier exit to the finisher.

Catcher Tray

This is the tray or exit area of a photocopier that collects the output copies.

Scan Once Print Many

Using digital technology the original is now scanned into memory and then reproduced from memory rather than being scanned again for each copy of the same document (as with older analogue technology). Where there are multiple originals the whole stack is scanned consecutively in one go (dependant on memory) and printing starts even before scanning has finished.

First time copy

This is the time taken from power on for the first page to be copied.

Warm up time

This is the time from initial power on for the fuser to have warmed up sufficiently to enable copying. It can also refer to the time taken from a low power state or 'energy saving mode' which will be a shorter period of time - this should be stated.

Image editing

Digital copiers can edit your documents while duplication is in progress. This can include automatic page numbering or annotation, adding watermarks such as "confidential" or "copy", or adding date stamps. They can rotate scanned images to match the orientation of the available paper supply, saving on wasted time and paper from unanticipated errors. They can also combine images in creative ways, such as copying a two-sided original — say, a check — onto one page for better filing, or reducing and combining originals to put 2, 4, or 8 pages onto one.


This editing feature reverses the black and white areas on an original, i.e. white text on black background to black text on white background. This can be useful for faxing brochures where the original has lighter text on a darker coloured background.

Margin Shift

This function shifts the image on a copy to the right to create a margin suitable for hole-punching and binding.

Dual Page Copy

This reproduces individual copies of two pages placed side by side on the glass platen, such as pages of a binded book.

Stackless duplexing

Digital copiers can support stackless duplexing by storing each side of the original page in memory, then printing both sides of the copy. This means the number of two-sided copies you make is no longer limited by the capacity of a duplex tray. You will get your duplexed copies much faster, too.


Restriction of Hazardous Substances

Saddle stitch

A finisher option designed to automatically fold and insert staples into the spine (saddle) of a copied document for booklet creation.

Scan to email

This allows a scan of a document to be emailed directly from the photocopier to a destination email address.

Scan to file

This feature creates an electronic file (pdf, tif, jpg or jpeg, Word doc®*,xls/csv Excel® *, Rich Text Format rtf*, HTML*, Microsoft Reader® - eBook*, Tabular Data*, Corel Wordperfect® WPD*) from a hardcopy original and sends to the desktop or dedicated server folder for retrieval from the desktop.

*Using optional Toshiba reRite software.


Multifunctional Device / Peripheral. A device that can handle the work of multiple office devices such as Scanner, Photocopier, Printer, Fax Machine, PDF Writer.


As MFD / MFP normally a multifunction device capable of scanning, printing, copying and faxing

Super G3

A Fax protocol also known as V34. Initiated in the mid 1990's to reduce the fax transmission time using faster image transfer abd control channel modulations.

Supported OS

Compatible Operating Systems with the device such as WindowsXP, Windows2000, Windows Vista, Mac OS X. version compatibility should be cross-checked also - e.g. 10.2.8, 10.3.9, Linux.


Total cost of ownership.


Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol - Standards of protocol used for communication in networking. eg - IP address, VOIP - Voice Over IP.

Tiff (or tif)

Tagged Image File Format - A high quality lossless image file format for storing images, including photographs and line art. Unlike jpeg the lossless properties of tif files means they have been saved without degradation but of course have a larger file size.


Also jpeg, jfif - Joint Photographic Experts Group - Lossless image file whose quality is dependant on how high the adjustable setting is fixed upon saving from original, and how many times saved thereafter. Used mainly for photo types for use on the web where smaller file sizes and quick download speeds are important.


A standard for acquiring images from image scanners and is typically used as an interface between image processing software and a scanner or digital camera.


Ultra Fast Rendering - Canon's own proprietary next generation printing technology delivering superior processing speed to ensure the shortest possible printing time. Designed to achieve the highest performance in its field, it offers far faster processing compared to existing Printer Description Languages.


Universal Serial Bus - The predecessor to the current USB2.0 with less speed at 100MB/second. A serial interface designed to allow peripherals to be connected using a standardised interface socket. The interface can be type A or B.


The successive development of USB developed in 2001 with a specification of a higher data transfer rate - up to 480 Mbit/s, much faster than the previously faster firewire bus.


Local Area Network. A computer network covering a small geographical area such as an office building.


Wide Area Network - A Computer network covering a large geographical area such as offices located in different towns. The global internet is a WAN.

Automatic re-sizing

Digital copiers usually offer an automatic sizing function on their machines. This enables the copier to note the dimensions of your original document and adjust itself using preset reduction/enlargement settings, even if your copying paper is a different size than your original.

Energy Save & Automatic shut-off

Almost all copiers now have an automatic shut-off option — it saves energy and decreases wear on a copier by turning the machine off if it has not been used for a set period of time. Energy Save is another term for this which refers to its application either automatically or manually via a dedicated button on the control panel. All Energy Star qualified machines should have this feature.

Copy volume / Print Volume

Copy and print volume usually refers to an approximate monthly amount of copies. Used by the manufacturer to convey a machine's sturdiness (often an over-approximation) and by the end user as a current or expected amount in the print auditing process.

Paper supply

Each paper tray, cassette, pedestal, or paper feed unit is a separate paper source. The number of sources is important if you want to be able to copy onto different paper stocks, such as A4, letterheads, A3, coloured paper or transparencies and for reduction and enlargement purposes, without reloading the machine. Paper sources typically hold a minimum of 50 to 100 sheets, and the largest-capacity units can hold up to 3,000 sheets.

Typically, office copiers include at least one fixed-size and a couple of adjustable-size paper trays. Most Canon and Toshiba copiers make double-sided copies as standard and all have a bypass tray.

Bypass Tray

A bypass tray allows the user to feed paper directly into the copier without using one of the built-in paper cassettes. Bypass trays are usually only needed when using non-standard paper such as heavy gsm, glossy, transparencies and labels. The paper path is more in line with the fusing section to prevent curling and jamming that may otherwise occur with a standard paper tray.

Coated Paper

In most cases a reference to glossy or photo paper, coated paper reacts slightly differently when ink is applied and thus can give a crisper image and a more professional look. The weight is also generally thicker and the feel of the paper could be described as luxurious.


A general reference to finite resources such as toner and drum units (where applicable). refers to the various types of printing “ink” or chemical developer that photocopiers apply to the paper when printing.


Dots per inch - a reference to scan and print resolution. A higher DPI scan results in a better quality and more finely detailed copy of the original.

Fax Board

Where fax functionality is an optional upgrade a fax board is a necessary hardware installation to enable a digital photocopier to also perform as a fully functioning fax machine.


Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black - These are the 3 primary toner colours, + Black, used in the subtractive print process that a photocopier uses to create the whole spectrum of colours. Conversely, the additive colour model, RGB, is used to display the wide range of colours as seen on a television screen or monitor.

Full bleed

Print output that covers the whole paper to the edge of a sheet with no borders, suitable for cropping in Pre-press


Data formatted for printer spooling.


The process of transmitting data to the printer. More RAM memory and a dedicated Printer Controller or Fiery will handle larger file sizes and transmit data at a faster spooling rate.


A paper feeding photocopier desk or cabinet with extra paper cassettes. An ordinary cabinet is for raising a copier to operational height and used for storage of paper and other consumables.


Printer Command Language, a Page description language (PDL) developed by HP as a printer protocol and has become a de facto industry standard. Originally developed for early inkjet printers in 1984, PCL has been released in varying levels for thermal, matrix printer, and page printers. HP-GL and PJL are supported by later versions of PCL.


Portable Document Format. A file format created by Adobe Systems, opened with Adobe Reader, created with Adobe Acrobat and 'printed' with Adobe Distiller. PDF documents have selectable text.

Postscript - Page Description Language

Now in its 3rd incarnation PostScript 3 is a programming language optimized for printing graphics and text. It was introduced by Adobe in 1985 and was originated to provide a convenient language in which to describe images in a device independent manner. A worldwide printing and imaging standard.


Software that once installed allows one or multiple computer applications to interact with a hardware device such as a printer (or internal hardware such as a graphics card). Usually OS specific a computer driver is the 'middleman' between operating system and component or device.


Restriction of Hazardous Substances


Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment

Photocopier - How it Works, Description and History

A photocopier (or copier) is a machine that makes paper copies of documents and other visual images quickly and cheaply. Most current photocopiers use a technology called xerography, a dry process using heat. (Copiers can also use other output technologies such as ink jet, but xerography is standard for office copying.)

Xerographic office photocopying was introduced by Xerox in the 1960s, and over the following 20 years it gradually replaced copies made by Verifax, Photostat, carbon paper, mimeograph machines and other duplicating machines. The prevalence of its use is one of the factors that prevented the development of the paperless office heralded early in the digital revolution.

Photocopying is widely used in business, education and government. There have been many predictions that photocopiers will eventually become obsolete as information workers continue to increase their digital document creation and distribution, and rely less on distributing hardcopy. However, photocopiers are undeniably more convenient than computers for the very common task of creating a copy of a hardcopy original sheet of paper.

How a photocopier works (using xerography)

  • Charging: The surface of a cylindrical drum is electrostatically charged by either a high voltage wire called a corona wire or a charge roller. The drum has a coating of a photoconductive material. A photoconductor is a semiconductor that becomes conductive when exposed to light.
  • Exposure: A bright lamp illuminates the original document, and the white areas of the original document reflect the light onto the surface of the photoconductive drum. The areas of the drum that are exposed to light (those areas that correspond to white areas of the original document) become conductive and therefore discharge to ground. The area of the drum not exposed to light (those areas that correspond to black portions of the original document) remain negatively charged. The result is a latent electrical image on the surface of the drum. (In digital machines, the original document is scanned and digitized and a laser is employed to discharge the drum in a similar fashion)
  • Developing: The toner is positively charged. When it is applied to the drum to develop the image, it is attracted and sticks to the areas that are negatively charged (black areas), just as paper sticks to a toy balloon with a static charge.
  • Transfer: The resulting toner image on the surface of the drum is transferred from the drum onto a piece of paper with a higher negative charge than the drum.
  • Fusing: The toner is melted and bonded to the paper by heat and pressure rollers.
  • Cleaning: The drum is wiped clean with a rubber blade and completely discharged by light.

This example is of a negatively charged drum and paper, and positively charged toner as is common in today's digital copiers. Some copiers, mostly older analog copiers, employ a positively charged drum and paper, and negatively charged toner.

Invention and development -

History of The Photocopier

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