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Understanding the Types of Printing in Today’s Digital Age

February 29, 2024 | High Velocity Printers

Printing has evolved significantly over the past century. Beginning with old-fashioned methods like lithography and screen printing, new technologies and developments now allow companies to print rapidly using digital printing techniques like inkjet or laser printing. Print shops and other companies can save considerable amounts of money thanks to these innovations, streamlining and personalizing the print process. But what are the types of printing found throughout the industry’s evolution? And what emerging techniques promise to further revolutionize the industry going forward?

Types of Printing

Printing today isn’t the same as one hundred years ago. Although the basic principles remain similar, the industry underwent significant changes as technology improved. While some traditional techniques remain common, digital printing is now the go-to method for small print runs and personalized designs. 

Below, we detail the different types of printing that are or were common in the past hundred years, noting their historical significance and how changes occurred in response to modern demands.

Traditional Printing Techniques

Traditional types of printing techniques developed thanks to advances in print media and the much earlier invention of the printing press. By the start of the early 20th century, new processes, applications, and qualities were refined, including:

  • Offset Printing: Uses plates to transfer images onto a rubber blanket and then to the printing surface, making it highly efficient for large quantities, offering sharp, detailed images and consistently high quality at a reduced cost per piece as volume increases.
  • Lithography: Based on the repulsion of oil and water, this method allows for printing from a flat surface, making it excellent for achieving high-quality prints with rich detail and color depth; often used for artistic prints, posters, and packaging.
  • Screen Printing: Involves forcing ink through a mesh screen that has been prepared with a stencil of the design, allowing for vibrant, durable prints on a variety of materials, including textiles, ceramics, and posters, ideal for designs requiring high visual impact.

Current printers haven’t abandoned these methods entirely. Rather, there’s been an evolution in response to changing needs and trends within the print industry. Increasing demand from modern consumers meant faster print turnaround was required. Previous print machinery was costly to set up and maintain for small print runs, and the output could not be customized with variable data. 

The latest digital printing techniques, however, were more cost-effective for small to medium print runs since they don’t require the creation of plates (as in offset printing) or screens (as in screen printing), reducing initial setup costs. 

Contemporary Printing Techniques

Digital printing arose thanks to new computer-based technologies. The ability to design and store a file on a computer, send it to a third party, and then print it onto any medium opened up several possibilities for the printing industry. 

Specifically, digital printing involves directly printing from a digital-based image onto the relevant media. It usually refers to professional printing where small-run jobs from desktop publishing or other digital sources are printed using large-format and/or high-volume laser or inkjet printers.

Laser printers produce high-quality tests and graphics by passing a laser beam back and forth over a negatively charged cylinder called a “drum” to define a differentially charged image. The drum then selectively collects an electrically charged tone to transfer the image to paper, which is then heated to fix the image permanently.

  • Speed: Generally faster than inkjet printers, especially for text documents, making it suitable for high-volume office environments.
  • Cost: Offers a lower cost per page than inkjet for monochrome printing, with high-capacity toner cartridges that reduce the need for frequent replacements.
  • Flexibility: Provides consistent quality on a range of standard printing papers, with superior text sharpness and durability.

Inkjet printers, on the other hand, create images by propelling ink droplets onto paper and plastic substrates. Inkjet printers are the most common type of printer for consumer use and range from small, inexpensive consumer models to large professional machines. They can produce high-quality printouts with rich color and fine details. 

  • Speed: Capable of high-speed printing, especially for home and office use; professional models offer competitive speeds for larger volumes.
  • Cost: Lower initial setup costs and the ability to print on demand help control expenses and reduce waste.
  • Flexibility: Excels in printing on a wide variety of substrates, including paper, plastic, canvas, and more, with excellent color accuracy and gradation.

Emerging Techniques

The printing revolution isn’t over yet and the types of printing options available grow all the time. However, future innovations look to take the industry in two key directions. First, 3D printing will do for physical objects what digital printing did for 2D representations. And second, concerns surrounding resource consumption will push companies towards eco-friendly printing solutions.

  • 3D Printing: Enables the production of complex designs with minimal waste, offering a customizable and efficient manufacturing solution that revolutionizes industries from healthcare to aerospace.
  • Eco-Friendly Printing Solutions: Focuses on reducing environmental impact by using recycled materials, soy-based inks, and energy-efficient technologies, aligning printing practices with sustainability goals.

Ashore Helps Streamline Any Printing Project

Ashore is a centralized proofing platform that accepts any file type, from PDFs to JPEGs. Companies can upload their final designs prior to printing, allowing key stakeholders to review the design, provide feedback, and annotate the design directly, reducing confusion.

But that’s not all – other features include:

  • Compatibility with a wide range of file formats, enabling users to work with various document and image types seamlessly.
  • Streamlines the process of tracking and managing tasks and projects, ensuring efficient progress from start to finish.
  • Maintains a history of document revisions, allowing users to access and revert to previous versions as needed.
  • Enables side-by-side comparison of document versions, highlighting changes and updates for easy review.
  • Allows users to add comments directly within the document, facilitating clear, specific feedback tied to relevant content.
  • Sends notifications to remind users of deadlines, tasks, or follow-ups, ensuring timely completion and response.

Don’t let your project get slowed down with poor-quality feedback, confusing email conversations, or slow response rates. Thanks to Ashore, you can streamline any printing project. Try Ashore for free today.

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