Printer Has Stopped Because the Photoconductor Kit Has Reached the End of Its Useful Life

By Steve Lander

Some Dell and Lexmark laser printers periodically generate an error message telling you that the printer has shut down because the photoconductor kit is used up. This message means that the printer's imaging drum has reached its maximum page count and needs replacement. While this specific message is unique to Dell and Lexmark printers, the broader issue affects laser and light-emitting diode printers from any manufacturer that uses separate drums and toner cartridges.

Photoconductor Kits

The photoconductor kit contains a colored drum that snaps into the toner cartridge. The drum is what actually makes the image on the page. When light from the printer's laser or light-emitting diode array strikes the drum, it causes it to take on a charge. As the drum passes through the toner reservoir, toner particles stick to it. When it presses against the more strongly charged paper, the toner particles jump off of the drum and adhere to the paper, where they get melted into place by the fuser as the page makes its way out of the printer.

Why They Fail

Over time, the chemicals in the photoconductor kit break down. As the drum gets exposed to more and more light, it charges less efficiently, making it less reliable at picking up toner. At the same time, rubbing against both paper and toner can gradually degrade its surface, making it less smooth or even marking it with scratches or pits. Either of these two conditions will diminish the printer's output quality, so printers tell you to replace their drums before they deteriorate.

Replacing the Photoconductor Kit

You can clear this error message by replacing the printer's imaging drum. After obtaining one from a dealer, you use a similar process to the one that you use to replace the toner cartridge. After removing the caddy for the cartridge and the drum, remove the toner cartridge from it. Snap the toner cartridge into the new photoconductor kit, which contains both the caddy and the drum, and replace the unit.

Beyond Dell and Lexmark Printers

While Dell and Lexmark printers use this specific message, every laser or LED printer uses a part analogous to the Photochemical Kit. Some printers separate the drum and the toner, allowing you to use the drum through a few toner cartridges. Others use a combined cartridge that's more expensive. However, since the drum gets replaced every time the toner gets replaced, you never have to worry about replacing it.