A plus 220-1001 – Exam Objective 5.6

A+ Exam Objective 5.6 – ExamNotes

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CompTIA A+ Exam 220-1001 sub-objective 5.6: Given a scenario, troubleshoot printers.

Overview of printer types and how they function

Troubleshooting printer problems is infinitely easer if you know how printers should function under normal conditions. Let’s start out by looking at the most common printer found in SOHOs: The inkjet.

A fast and efficient printer, the inkjet, or bubble jet, can produce picture quality images, plaintext, and everything in-between. These printers are capable of duplexing (printing on both sides of the paper) and are capable of creating prints from the smallest wallet sized photo to full size legal documents. Interestingly, these printers are constantly getting features added. You can find an all-in one printer with full printing capabilities, Fax, Scanner, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi or Gigabit for under $100! However, there is a slight drawback as ink costs $99. Do your homework before buying! Compare the prices of the consumables, such as the ink, versus the cost of the unit.

So how does it work? Let’s consider the example of a networked inkjet printer that is shared with everyone without restriction.

Start by installing the printer on your workstation. Make sure you have the exact make and model number of the printer. This is imperative. If you can’t find the correct printer drivers in Windows’ driver list, go to the manufacturer’s website and download the right one. A generic device driver will give you generic results, will possibly miss out on features, and in the worst case will give no connection.

A networked printer can stand alone or it can be shared by a workstation on the network. Remember that the printer must be turned on and shared for either of these two options to work. Sharing requires the most attention.

You must give permission to each user and also specify which of the printer’s capabilities each user can utilize. This is where Groups comes in handy. You could manually assign the correct capabilities for each user, or you can assign one set of permissions and capabilities to the PrintOps group and add the users in the PERFORMANCE group to it.

New Object – PrintOps

Using this tool, you can setup 20 computers in one go! Be cognizant of the group’s capabilities and more importantly, the impact of any group changes on other groups. This could be significant. For example, the PrintOps group is a global Security group.

Printer Operator Properties

Alright, let’s get this A+ sub-objective 5.6 out of the way by addressing specific cases. These objectives are fundamentally just a list of knowledge points that you are responsible for and don’t follow any particular logical order. This will make them seem jumpy because they are! We’ll smooth them out as much as possible while still trying to deliver the relevant content.

The Laser Printing Process

The Laser printing process is a continuous, 7-step cyclical process in which each step is occurring simultaneously. The Laser Printing Process is fascinating and efficient.

First, a piece of paper is drawn into the printer while the drum is charged. This is called the Conditioning phase.

Laser printing process

A uniform -600 volt charge is applied to the image drum which is constantly rotating. Next, the image to be printed is written onto the drum. This is referred to as exposing or writing. Exposing takes place when a focused laser beam is scanned across the entire drum. The laser turns on and off rapidly, discharging some areas of the drum while retaining others. This creates the image on the drum.

At this point, the image is present but still invisible. Next in the cycle is the toner hopper, where the toner (ink) is drawn onto the areas of the drum that were discharged earlier. These areas are very narrow strips and do not look like anything until a few dozen of them are exposed. However, that never happens.

After the toner is attracted to the drum, it is immediately pulled onto the paper by the transfer corona. The transfer corona is positioned so that the paper travels between the drum (now coated with toner) and the corona wire. Pure electrical energy acts as the physical force which moves the toner from the imaging drum to the paper. Once the toner is on the paper, the toner needs to be “fixed” or melted onto the paper. This requires that the paper is heated to a temperature of around 400 degrees. The heat required is determined by the printer, toner, and paper manufacturers. The temperature should never be exceeded. However, the temperature must be hot enough to melt the toner. Signs of under heated toner or problems with the fuser (fusing corona) are streaky, dusty toner. After this, the cleaning phase takes place and any residual toner is removed.

When a laser printing cycle begins, a single piece of paper is drawn into the printer. A separator pad is used to ensure that only one sheet of paper is picked up. A failure here can cause paper jams or creased/torn paper.

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Laser Printer

A Laser printer consists of two main components, the printer and the cartridge. The cartridge contains all of the high wear items which include the toner, photosensitive drum, charging corona, and the excess toner hopper.

Here are the seven steps of laser printing.

  • Processing – The digitized image is prepared to be transferred to the photosensitive drum.
  • Charging – The imaging drum is charged by the charging corona wire to a uniform voltage of greater than -600 VDC. This voltage repulses all toner on drum.
  • Exposing – A laser beam is scanned across the drum, discharging all areas of exposure. This drains the charge off of the drum. All points exposed to the laser will now attract toner.
  • Developing – Due to the difference in electrical potential, toner is attracted to the areas discharged by the laser and repulsed by the charged areas.
  • Transferring – A transfer corona, carrying a positive charge and positioned permanently beneath the paper path, draws the negatively charged from the drum onto the paper.
  • Fusing – A fusing roller placed beneath the paper is heated to above 400 degrees. This melts the toner powder into the final image.
  • Cleaning – Any remaining static voltage on the paper is dissipated and the drum is exposed to an erase lamp which returns it to a neutral charge.

Inkjet Printer

The Inkjet process consists of one or more ink cartridges that contain focused nozzles. When not in use, these cartridges are positioned in a maintenance station to keep the nozzles free from dust. Inkjets operate by scanning the print heads across the paper and spraying small focused bubbles of ink onto the paper. Inkjet printers cost less to purchase than laser printers but have a higher maintenance cost.

Printer types

Dot Matrix Printers

A dot matrix printer operates on the impact principle. This printer will eject and return a small cluster of individual rods onto a ribbon that is damp with ink, which leaves a dot on the paper. After several passes of the ink head, a readable image made up of these dots is produced. This is the only printer type capable of producing images on multi-sheet carbon paper.

Dot matrix printers are quite noisy. Special paper, that has a series of holes along each side allowing it to be “tractor fed,” is used for these printers.

Thermal printers

This printer type uses a specially treated paper that is heat sensitive. The print heads are heated to the specified temperature and contact the paper. The chemicals on the paper react to the heated print head, leaving a black mark at the point of contact.

Common symptoms

Here are some of the common problems you will encounter in the field when supporting printers. Please keep in mind that this stuff could very well be on the test too! Here is a breakdown.

This first set of problems will be most common on a laser printer.

Steaks on a laser printer will appear as vertical blank areas which run consistently down the length of the page. The most probable cause is that the toner is not even in the cartridge. This is easily fixed (temporarily) by shaking the cartridge and evenly distributing the toner. You should prepare to replace the cartridge.. Faded prints indicate a failing charging corona which requires cartridge replacement to fix. Ghosting of images on the print can also be repaired by replacing the cartridge. In this case, it’s important to note that the circumference of the image drum is considerably less that the length of the paper. An imaging drum will rotate almost 10 times in order to print a single page. This makes the cleaning process crucial. Check the erase lamps while you are working. Print blank pages to check the erase lamps.

Moving on, if you have laser output that is not fused, is sandy, or is gritty to the touch, this indicates a failed fuser. Order and replace.

If you see a memory error when printing, your image is too large (too much data) for the printer’s buffer. This is currently less of a problem but it still happens. Reduce the size of the image. For example, reduce the pixel requirement from 1200dpi to 600dpi. Reduce the load on the printer until you can diagnose it.

If your printer is not printing, printing garbage, or printing wrong colors, perform the following actions:

  • Make sure you are connected to the printer.
  • Make sure the printer is online.
  • Make sure the right print drivers are installed.
  • Print a test page from your workstation to the printer.
  • Print a self-test page from the printer console and compare it with a machine test.
  • Run the printer set-up alignment software.

If the print queue is jammed and if the printer will not print, clear all the items from the queue.

This is a personal bit of observation. Person 1 can’t print so they tell Person 2 who sends a second job. It doesn’t work so they both try again. As news of the problem spreads down the aisle, each person tries once or twice and confirms the issue. Person 1 calls the helpdesk and tries to print while on the phone. Person 2 sees Person 1 on the phone, tries to print, and asks to be included on the ticket. This repeats until 50 print jobs are queued and before the help desk can see and clear the queue.

Moving on, here are some more issues that can be fixed with the same general solution provided the printer is online and operational.

Errors such as Access denied, Unable to install printer, and errors on the local machine can all be traced to the permissions. Try accessing the machine the printer is attached to. If the printer is standalone, check the Print Operators group and make sure you are an area member with correct permissions. On the printer’s host, check your accessibility to the machine. The printer will be visible. Try a test page from there and evaluate the results. 

That’s all for Sub-Objective 5.6! One more to go to complete your 220-1001 objectives.

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