Laser Digital Color (LDC)

Laser Digital Color printing (LDC) technology has matured to a point where quality levels can satisfy many demanding customer applications, including the printing of professional photographic images. It can now be considered a serious alternative to both traditional offset color printing and high quality ink jet. While ink jet prints are sometimes seen to be more saturated and “vibrant” by some observers for some images, LDC technology is narrowing this.

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via Robert Anderson

A basic review of how LDC technology works is given to help users appreciate its strengths and weaknesses, particularly in comparison to thermal ink jet printing. LDC has additional operating characteristics that can sometimes make it the preferred alternative over these other technologies. In particular, speed, cost/page, and ubiquitous two-sided printing are three factors that make LDC more suitable for producing multiple copies of prints, books and catalogs than the use of ink jet.

Professional ink jet printers (e.g., Epson 9800) on the other hand, can accommodate much larger sheet sizes (up to 44 inches wide by several feet in length). This capability is particularly advantageous in the production of larger fine art prints.Given the ability of LDC to compete for the production of photographic books and smaller fine art prints (generally 14”x22” or less), it is necessary to understand the archival nature of this output form.

Two primary factors of archivability pertain to stability of the image itself, and the stability of the paper on which the image is placed. Because the colorants in the LDC printing process are typically pigment-based, they will have similar aging characteristics to today’s best pigment-based ink jet inks. Most LDC systems can also print reliably on a wide variety of paper substrates, including those developed to minimize yellowing. Therefore if one takes care to print on “archival” papers, one can presume that color prints by LDC systems will enjoy a long life expectancy, comparable to “best of breed” ink jet output. Under the best conditions it has been shown that both ink jet and laser digital color can produce images that are stable from 10’s of years to 100 years or more.



About the author

Robert Anderson received a BS in chemistry from Drexel Institute of Technology (now Drexel University) in 1969. He also received a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1976. Recently retired from Xerox Corp. with 30 years of experience, his main work was in development of color toner materials and the xerographic process. He is the author of over 25 scientific publications in photochemistry and photochemical energy transfer and holds eight US patents.