The history of Digital Print
After Johannes Gutenberg’s press marked the start of printing as we know it in 1439, more than five centuries were to pass before the invention of digital print. The first digital printing press arrived on the market in the 1990s, bringing with it a new era of simplicity including a shorter turn-around time, on-demand printing and the ability to modify the image used for each impression.
Digital printing assembles images from a set of mathematical formulas and numbers. The images are formed from a matrix of pixels or dots – a process known as digitising. These digitised images control the deposition of toner, ink or exposure to electromagnetic energy to print the data, using a colour management system that ensures images always look the same, no matter where they are printed.
The printing and photocopying technique, Xerography, works by using electrostatic charges and is the dominant method used to print images and computer data. It can be used for laser printers, photocopiers and fax machines. The name is based on the Greek words “xeros” (meaning dry) and “graphos”(meaning writing). It is also known as electrophotography.
The process was invented by American patent lawyer Chester Carlsonin in the 1930s. Initially, engineers didn’t believe the idea could be of any use and the industry didn’t appreciate the invention’s potential for several years. Carlson was rejected by many major companies including Kodak, IBM, General Electric and RCA.
Finally, a non-profit organisation called The Battelle Memorial Institute invested in his research and he signed a licensing agreement with a company called Haloid. After collaborating in the research, Battelle and Haloid demonstrated the Xerography process in 1948 and Haloid later became known as Xerox.
Originally, the process only enabled the printing of grayscale images but later it became capable of printing colour images as well. High-quality grayscale and colour laser printers can provide hard copy almost as good as that produced by an offset printer and the process would eventually replace traditional printing to produce magazines and books.
Major leaps in technology throughout the late 1990s and into the 21st century have seen printers becoming faster and cheaper, while their ability to print high quality images just gets better and better.
While traditional printing methods such as offset lithography still have a role in the print industry today, the boom in digital printing over the past quarter of a century has had a massive impact on the world of print. Technology continues to develop and analysts say digital printing accounted for 18% of all print in 2016.
Seen as the “green” alternative to conventional printing, there’s no need for photo chemicals or film plates, since there’s no pre-press stage before the final print. It’s a quicker method of printing, as it simplifies the whole process – there are less steps involved, so the final product can be completed and delivered faster.
It can enable companies to make cost savings, thanks to the flexibility of the printing press – businesses and individuals can get the exact amount of copies that they need. It’s ideal for producing short and medium runs, plus the data can be stored and updated quickly and easily so changes can be made prior to printing or for the next batch. The growth of digital print really has created a printing revolution.
LEFA Print specialises in digital printing and thanks to our range of printers – including Xerox 7002, iGen 4 Diamond and Nuvera digital presses – we’re able to tackle any project our clients have in mind. If you’re not sure which printer is right for you, take a look at our Digital vs Lithographic report, which explains all you need to know. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for further information.