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xerography (zərŏgˈrəfēˌ), also called electrophotography, method of dry photocopying in which the image is transferred by using the attractive forces of electric charges. A beam of light, usually from a laser, is made to strike the original material, e.g., a white page with black lettering. Light rays are reflected off the white areas onto a photosensitive plate over which electric charges have been spread. Charges are neutralized from the areas struck by the rays. Since no light rays are reflected from the lettering, charges are retained on the plate in areas corresponding to the lettered areas of the original. A plastic powder called toner is introduced that sticks to the charged areas. A sheet of paper is then passed between the plate and another charged object that draws the powder from the plate to the paper, forming an image of the original; the powder is fused to the paper with heat. The process has image resolution that is sufficient for printed or written materials, and certain pictorial materials are fairly well reproduced. As the image on the drum is a projected one rather than one made by contact printing, it is possible to produce a copy that is smaller or larger than the original. Variations of the xerographic process are used in such devices as computer laser printers and plain-paper facsimile machines.


See study by D. Owen (2004).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



one of the most widely used processes for reproducing documents and for making enlargements from microfilm.

Xerography is based on the photoconductivity of semiconductor materials that are applied to a special backing made of, for example, paper or metal and on the ability of the materials to hold dyed particulate by means of electrostatic force. Xerography was patented in the United States in 1938, and the first xerographic machines were commercially available in 1950. The popularity of xerography is due to the high quality of the copies it produces, its ability to make copies from virtually any original, its high copy speed (more than 7,000 copies per hour), and its ability to produce offset masters (seeOFFSET PRINTING and ELECTROSTRATOGRAPHY). In the 1970s, xerographic processes were developed in which multicolored copies could be made from continuous-tone originals.

There are two types of xerography—direct xerography and indirect, or transfer, xerography. In direct xerography, copies are made directly on electrophotographic paper. In transfer xerography, copies are produced by means of an intermediate information carrier, or agent, which consists of a polished metallic sheet (usually aluminum), a cylinder, or a flexible tape. The agent is coated with a photoconductive layer that consists of such materials as amorphous selenium, cadmium selenide, or cadmium sulfide.

Figure 1 presents a diagram of the direct xerographic process. The photoconductive layer of the paper on which the copy will be printed is charged in the dark to a potential of several hundred volts by means of, for example, a corona discharge. When an image of the original is projected onto the charged layer, the charges from the illuminated, or white, portions of the layer leak onto the electrically conductive backing. The portions that are not exposed, that is, the portions corresponding to the dark lines of the original, retain their charge. As a result, a latent image of the original is produced in the photoconductive layer in the form of a charge pattern. The image is usually developed by means of a dyed powder, called the toner, the particles of which have a charge whose sign is the opposite of that of the charge pattern. Attracted to the charge pattern, the particles form a visible image, which may be fixed by heating the powder to its melting point and thereby bonding the particles to the paper’s backing.

In transfer xerography, the latent image is produced in the light-sensitive layer of the agent. Developed by means of an electrified, dyed powder, the image is then transferred onto, say, plain paper or tracing paper. The image fixing process is the same as that in direct xerography.

Xerography is performed on machines that use intermediate information carriers and that produce copies on plain paper, as well as machines that make copies on electrophotographic paper. Xerograpic copiers are differentiated by the methods they use for exposure, development (liquid or dry toner), and fixing of the image. They may also differ according to the size of the originals they can copy, the size of the copies they make, and the degree of automation.

Exposure in transfer copiers that have a plate for an agent is accomplished frame by frame. Machines whose agent is a cylinder or a tape use dynamic methods in which the original, the optical system, and the surface of the agent are continuously shifting with respect to each other. Exposure time depends on the illuminance of the original, the light-sensitivity of the photoconductor, and the quality of the optical system. The Soviet-made ER-620R nonportable rotary xerographic copier, for example, can make copies of design documents on paper rolls 620 mm wide at a rate of nearly 3 m/min.


Slutskin, A. A., and V. I. Sheberstov. Kopiroval’nye protsessy i materialy reprografii i maloi poligrafii i Moscow, 1971.
Protsessy i apparaty elektrofotografii. Leningrad, 1972.
Alferov, A. V., I. S. Reznik, and V. G. Shorin. Orgatekhnika. Moscow, 1973.
Ivanov, R. N. Reprografiia. Moscow, 1977.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(graphic arts)
A printing method developed by the Xerox Corporation; a negative image is formed by a resinous powder on an electrically charged plate, and this image is transferred and thermally fixed onto a paper as a positive.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


The printing technique used in laser and LED printers and most copy machines. It uses electrostatic charges, dry ink (toner) and light. A selenium-coated, photoconductive drum is positively charged. Using a laser or LEDs, a negative of the image is beamed onto the drum, cancelling the charge and leaving a positively charged replica of the original image.

A negatively charged toner is attracted to the positive image on the drum, and the toner is then attracted to the paper, also positively charged. The final stage is fusing, which uses heat and pressure, pressure alone or light to cause the toner to permanently adhere to the paper.

Xerography Was Introduced in 1948
In 1938, electrophotography was invented by Chester Carlson in Queens, New York, and his first of 28 patents was issued in 1940. By 1947, Haloid Corporation and Batelle Development Corporation were working with Carlson, and xerography became official in 1948. A huge breakthrough, it replaced the messy liquid ink of the duplicating machines of the day with a dry, granular ink. In Greek, xero means "dry," and graphy means "write."

Electrophotographic Process
Electrostatic charges are used to create a charged light image on the drum. The toner is attracted to the drum and then to the paper.

"Painting" the Drum
The laser printer uses a single light directed by moving mirrors, but there are more lenses and parts than are shown here. The LED printer has a stationary array of thousands of tiny LEDs that are selectively beamed onto the drum.

The Model A - 1949
The first Xerox copier was manually operated, but it provided the experience and revenue to develop the automatic, floor-standing Xerox 914 ten years later. The 914 was a huge success. (Image courtesy of Xerox Corporation.)

The 1938 Experiment Replicated in 1965
With india ink, Carlson wrote "10-22-38 ASTORIA" on a glass slide and rubbed a sulphur-covered zinc plate with a handkerchief to apply an electrostatic charge. He put the slide on the plate, exposed it to light with the room dark, removed the slide and sprinkled lycopodium powder on the plate. He gently blew off the loose powder, and what remained was the first electrophotographic copy. After Xerox became successful, Carlson was showered with honors and wealth. At age 62 in 1968, he died of a stroke on a New York street. (Image courtesy of Xerox Corporation.)
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References in periodicals archive ?
The process of xerography is not especially simple to explain.
at 194-203 (comparing the development of xerography with the development of other famous inventions).
Facts About the Invention of Xerography by Chester Carlson in 1938,
This study showed that the ink-fiber attachment force for aged magazines, advertisement inserts, and xerography printed paper is significantly higher than that of newsprint grades.
David Owen provides an involving history of the Xerox as a whole, describing the long effort to turn xerography into a essential business world commodity, and considering how one shy patent attorney pursued his father's strange business scheme, rising from poverty through hard work and dream up his own copying machine.
It's a story full of twists and turns and sudden illuminations, culminating in one of the most significant technological developments of the 20th century--Chester Carlson's invention of xerography.
The list of reformatting devices employed by libraries during the past century is a long one: photography, the photostat, microfilm, cheap offset lithography, xerography, video disc technology, the electronic digitization of texts and now of images: Microfilming, after all, is simply one of the chronological steps along the long preservation way.
This electrostatic technology came to be called xerography, and the rest is Xerox history.
And in 1947 the firm bought rights to the xerography process, invented in 1937 by Seattle lawyer Chester Carlson.