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The History of Digital Printing: A Comprehensive Timeline

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Producing the perfect packaging design requires the right print technique. Learn about digital printing history and how it has helped the industry strive.
history of digital printing

With the evolution of printing technology, businesses have seen significant transformations in communications processes. As companies adopt new approaches, there are now different strategies they can implement, affecting their marketing, customer service, and packaging solutions.

Whether you have a small or large business, you must use high-quality materials to produce different types of packaging printing. Doing so will help you keep up with current trends and the market’s growth. Learn more about digital printing history and how printing technology grew to become what it is today with the infographic below as your guide.

What is Digital Printing?

Digital printing is the process of placing digital images onto the desired platform. Compared to traditional printing methods, there is no need to use a printing plate to obtain high-quality outputs with digital printing. Instead, the chosen design or text is made into a soft copy and sent to the press for printing. 

Digital printing offers a more convenient and accessible way to produce different product packaging within a short period. It can also be a cost-effective solution to providing personalized services. 

 

The History of Digital Printing

Printing developers have come a long way. Here is a look at a few printing types over the years and the digital printing history.  

  • 1439

A German goldsmith named Johannes Gutenberg invented one of the first printing presses. It was designed as a movable type of printer which could be used by hand. This helped improve the speed of producing printed materials and made them more available to everyone. 

  • 1790s

At this time, lithography became one of the most commonly used printing techniques. This process uses a flat stone or metallic plate where images are produced using a greasy substance that acts as ink. 

  • 1938

Chester Carlson invented electrophotography, which uses a beam of directed ions directed onto a rotating drum of insulating material. create an electrostatic charge on the drum. A fine powder could then be dusted upon the drum; the powder would stick to the parts of the

  • 1843

Richard March Hoe invented the rotary press, which would quickly replace printing presses. He focused on perfecting the press method by printing on continuous rolls of paper. This helped revolutionize newspaper printing. 

  • 1875

Utilizing the technology introduced by Richard March Hoe, a new printing method was invented, replacing how large runs were done. The technique uses ink from a plate and transfers it to a rubber blanket to print out the desired text and graphics on a surface. 

  • 1977

In 1977, the fastest photocopier was invented, and the type of ink used would later be converted for printing. To successfully print text or graphics, the method uses suspended particles in imaging oil, forming a thin plastic layer on the surface of a paper. 

  • 1985

Office laser printers grew in popularity as they provided higher-quality prints without an overly complicated process. Laser printers became more common, allowing printing industries to control their production easily. 

  • 1990

Small printing businesses that owned digital printers began competing with traditional printing labs. This included copy shops and individuals who have desktop publishing software. As time went on, this trend redefined corporate printing capabilities. 

  • 2010 to present

As technology flourished, digital printing quickly became one of the world’s most widely used printing processes. This movement placed traditional printing methods at a disadvantage as industries could produce better quality products at a lower cost. 

 

Types of Digital Printing Today

The printing industry utilizes different types of digital printing solutions that best suit the printing requirements of a product. Here are some of the most common printing strategies used today. 

  • Inkjet

These printers use special print heads filled with small holes that deliver ink droplets onto a surface. Sheets of paper are typically used to avoid smudges and mixed pigments. 

  • Laser

In this method, multiple lasers transfer your design onto a metal drum which rolls the toner onto your medium. The toner is then melted and pressed onto the paper with heat to keep the print on. 

  • Solid Ink

Instead of liquid ink filled, this process uses a solidified wax resin loaded onto a special printer. When a print job is requested, the machine heats the resin and then directs it to your material to produce the desired image. 

  • Dye Sublimation

This method is commonly used to transfer prints onto synthetic fabrics and similar materials. Sublimation works by heating solidified ink on a press and transferring it onto the desired surface. Once heated, the ink vaporizes into a gas that permeates the fibers and creates a high-quality graphic. 

 

The Latest Printing Trends You Need to Know

Keeping up with the latest trends in the printing industry will give you an idea of the strategies you can use to stand out against your competitors. 

  1. Making print more planet-friendly

As the effects of climate change become more apparent, consumers have likewise become more concerned about their purchasing habits. Digital printing can be an eco-friendly solution to producing different products as it uses less energy and creates less waste. 

  1. 3D Printing

With certain materials becoming scarce, 3D printing provides a new way to produce products by replacing ink with plastic materials that are layered to form a physical object. 

  1. ‘Smart’ Printing 

Automating printing processes allows your brand to leverage inline finishing systems that can reduce operational costs and human resources. The process can also finish quickly with less risk of errors and other complications. 

  1. Ensured security

Many institutions require more stringent printing security to lower the risks of data theft and other threats, such as financial companies and governments using advanced substrates, biometrics, and unique links to secure information sent to printers.  

  1. More customization options

Digital printing allows your company to manipulate and customize your products with ease. You can now quickly address consumer demands and modify your prints according to your needs. 

  1. Greater focus on value-adds

Around 22% of consumers are more likely to buy an item after they touch it. If you want your products to stand out and be picked from the bunch, you can add special features to their packaging, such as foil and varnished finishings. 

  1. Cloud printing 

Cloud printing has become a new option that offers accessibility to users. Industries can now use devices, such as tablets and smartphones, to connect to a cloud platform that will directly link to your printers. 

 

Establishing the Fine Print

The printing industry has grown tremendously over the centuries, continuously introducing new strategies, trends, and technologies to the market. Due to this, competition has also become more challenging, with manufacturers constantly looking for new ways to make their packaging design stand out and not lose valuable resources and growth opportunities. 

While digital printing has become the most widely used method, not all approaches will suit your brand. It would be best to go beyond digital printing history and study the different printing methods. Furthermore, look into the latest printing statistics to know what fits your strategy best. 

If you want to learn how to find the best professional printing solutions for your business needs, talk to experts at Meyers Printing and bring your vision to life.