For its latest technological breakthrough in colour toner technology, Xerox officials said they took their cue from nature itself, starting from the molecular level, and in doing so boosting hope of reducing costs for colour printing.

"This is a new way of making toner," explained Xerox Research Centre of Canada (XRCC) corporate vice president Rafik Loutfy about the EA (emulsion aggregation) toner creation process.

Although Xerox officials would not predict what the page printing costs of the technology would be, they did insist that EA would result in significant cost savings to their customers.

"We believe that EA technology will shatter the barrier to colour printing. It will make colour not just a luxury but mainstream," said Loutfy, at the premier of the technology, held at XRCC.

Traditionally, toner material is created in an energy-intensive process by grinding down large chunks of pigment-tinted polymer resins. This results in toner particles of various sizes and shapes. The Canadian-developed EA process works in the opposite way. It starts off with latex monomer particles about 200 nanometers in size. These particles are placed in a water-based environment and, through the manipulation of a variety of factors including temperature and pH, the particles combine and grow into polymer resins ranging in size from about three microns to 15 microns. Pigments are also added to create the desired colours.

Loutfy said the toner that results from this EA process is more desirable than the traditional product for a number of reasons. First, it gives scientists complete control over the size and shape of the particles and thereby allows for the creation of uniform toner particles. Uniform particles go on to any type of paper more smoothly, can be packed together better, and can therefore create a significantly sharper, clearer image with less volume of toner.

Loutfy also added that since the particles can be custom formulated, it will be possible for companies to design and request specific corporate colours such as Xerox red or Kodak yellow, a capability that Xerox hopes will allow the company to take a bite out of the offset printing market.