Digital Printing


What is Digital printing?

Digital printing refers to methods of printing from a digital based image directly to a variety of media. It usually refers to professional printing where small run jobs from desktop publishing and other digital sources are printed using large format and/or high volume laser or inkjet printers. Digital printing has a higher cost per page than more traditional offset printing methods but this price is usually offset by the cost saving in avoiding all the technical steps in between needed to make printing plates. It also allows for on demand printing, short turn around, and even a modification of the image (variable data) with each impression. The savings in labor and ever increasing capability of digital presses means digital printing is reaching a point where it could match or supersede offset printing technology’s ability to produce larger print runs of several thousand sheets at a low price.

The difference in the process of digital printing

The main differences between digital printing and traditional methods such as lithography, flexography, gravure, or letterpress are that no need to replace printing plates in digital whereas in analog printing plates are continuously replaced, resulting in a quicker and less expensive turn around time, and typically a loss of some fine-image detail by most commercial digital printing processes. The most popular methods include inkjet or laser printers that deposit pigment or toner onto a wide variety of substrates including paper, photo paper, canvas, glass, metal, marble and other substances.

In many of the processes the ink or toner does not permeate the substrate, as does conventional ink, but forms a thin layer on the surface that may be additionally adhered to the substrate by using a fuser fluid with heat process (toner) or UV curing process (ink).

History of printing

Wikipedia has an excellent article on the History of printing.    The following are the most common timelines used for the various types of printing.

Woodblock printing (200)
Movable type (1040)
Printing press (1454)
Etching (ca. 1500)
Mezzotint (1642)
Aquatint (1768)
Lithography (1796)
Chromolithography (1837)
Rotary press (1843)
Offset printing (1875)
Hectograph (19th century)
Hot metal typesetting (1886)
Hot stamping typesetting (1886)
Mimeograph (1890)
Screen printing (1907)
Spirit duplicator (1923)
Dye-sublimation (1957)
Phototypesetting (1960s)
Dot matrix printer (1964)
Laser printing (1969)
Thermal printing (ca. 1972)
Inkjet printing (1976)
3D printing (1986)
Digital press (1993)