If you were to use the word “technology” in a sentence, you’d most likely attach words like “new, latest, cutting edge, or state-of-the-art.” If you were talking about print technology, however, that wouldn’t necessarily be the case.
A Brief 500-Year History of Print
Within the global US$901 billion print industry, about 98% of the pages are produced using technology that can trace its roots back 500 years. To be fair, the first use of offset printing onto paper dates back to 1904, when Ira W. Rubel, an American printer, unintentionally discovered the process.1
Ira found that an image, which was accidentally transferred from the plate cylinder of his rotary to the rubber blanket of the impression cylinder, produced a spectacular impression. Thus was born offset printing, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Digital printing, a relative newcomer in the print scene having been launched in the early 1990s, accounts for remaining two percent of worldwide print production revenue.
A Tale of Two Printing Press Technologies
If the “modern” era of print production started in 1904, the fact remains that it has entered its second century of printing dominance. It’s still the mainstream technology, but its foothold is slipping as revenues expect to decline by 4.4%. Digital production printing, however, is moving in an opposite – and upward – direction. Digital revenue is forecast to increase by more than eight percent during the period from 2013 through 2018.2
Digital Applications Generate Interest and Revenues
Despite the rosy growth forecasts, digital print production technology has hardly evolved by leaps and bounds. Granted, it has ushered in a new era for print, introducing personalized and on-demand, affordable and efficient short-run printing, as well as cross-media marketing campaigns, photo publishing, quick-response codes, transpromo marketing and other powerful, profitable applications.
Digital Production Press – the Quality and Quantity Questions
Though strides in print output appearance have been made, digital printing still suffers a perceived “quality problem”, especially among print buyers raised on offset. Digital technology has also hit the proverbial wall in the production of runs of about 5,000 pieces. In fact, neither current digital nor offset press manufacturers have completely figured out how to print efficiently at these “in between” quantities – which has created a profitability gap in the print industry.
To B1 or Not to B1?
Another nagging question for digital printing relates to substrate support. Much of the buzz out of drupa 2012 focused on new offerings in B2 (29 in.) digital presses. For years, however, print service providers have clamored for digital B1 (41 in.) format media support, but to no avail. Digital presses’ limited range of supported substrate types is another sore spot for printers who have grown accustomed to offset printing on virtually any media.
Digital Divide Limits Printers’ Productivity
It’s no secret that digital printing longs for mainstream acceptance in the print shop. It’s a tough sell, however, when the equipment needs to be housed and operated separately from offset presses. It’s even tougher for print shop owners who are having a hard time recruiting any new press operators, much less the highly trained and skilled operators required to run advanced digital equipment
NanographyTM Breaks Barriers for Digital Print Production
Landa’s Nanographic Printing® technology, also called NanographyTM, is an entirely new category of printing. It combines the versatility and short-run economics of digital printing with the qualities and productivity of offset.
At the core of the Nanography printing process are Landa NanoInk® colorants. NanoInk colorants are proprietary water-based inks with nanopigment particles that measure tens of nanometers in size. Nanography first ejects NanoInk dispersions onto a heated blanket, and then transfers the ink from the blanket to the substrate to form an ultra-thin film. Unlike other commercial printing processes, media printed with Nanography is immediately ready for finishing.
The Nanographic Printing process breaks through other barriers, as well. Like offset, it prints on any substrate, including all off-the-shelf media. It also meets the industry’s long held wish for B1 (41 in.) media support in a digital press. Adding to their seamless fit within the print mainstream, the sheetfed Landa S10 Nanographic Printing® Presses operate side-by-side with offset equipment – requiring no special environments or unique operator skills.
It didn’t take five centuries, or even one. After only two decades since its inception, digital print production is enjoying its breakthrough moment.
2. “The Future of Global Printing to 2018,” Dr. Sean Smyth, Smithers Information Ltd. 2013.