Digital Printing

What is Digital Printing?
Digital printing is a modern method of printing that includes laser printing and ink-jet printing. An image is sent directly to the printer using PDF’s from Graphics software such as InDesign and Illustrator. This printing process completely eliminates the printing plate, which is used in offset lithography, making it much quicker and less cost effective than it’s offset counterpart.

Without the need of the printing plate, digital printing can make printing on demand. While offset printing still results in slightly better quality prints, digital methods are constantly being worked on to improve quality, as well as lowering the cost.

The History of Digital Printing:
1982 -Adobe was founded.

1985 -The first office laser printers become available with a high quality text and graphics.The name of o one of these printers is the Apple LaserWriter, a PostScript laser printer. Around the same time HP Laser Jet was introduced. The HP used the same Canon engine as the LaserWriter but had a different Page Description Language (PCL). Printers such as Laser Printers and OEMing of print engines and controllers remain hallmarks of industry for years to come.

1985 - 1990 - Adobe increased their graphics software to fit the criteria for the Macintosh computer with PhotoShop and Illustrator. With items like PageMaker and Quark Express
brought Desktop Publishing to a revolution. These PostScripts were based systems that were along the lines of cheap high quality PostScript type 1 fonts that allowed Mac users to complete with graphic houses.

1989 - Canon Introduced a computer interface for their printers.

1989 - The Iris Graphics 3047 printer was introduced as the first large - format inkjet photo printer

Early 1990s - Canon came up with their Canon CLC 500 high quality colour laser printer, that came with a computer interface that became widely available in the USA and Europe. A few third party companies developed new types of interfaces for the CLC 500 making a higher quality output available to make users, reducing the cost of printing a page dramatically.

Early 1990s - Small shops that sold digital printers began to compete with traditional printers and photo labs. Some of these shops are ex - copy shops, notablyFedEx in the USA. Others are people with some desktop publishing software and a colour laser printer.

1991 - The Xerox Docu Tech was released to the market as the high speed high dusty cycle balk and white laser printer that redefines corporate printing. For the first time manuals could be stored digitally and printed on demand in volume.

1991 - The Iris Graphic 3047 printer started printing with iris ID inks (4 - ink dye - based inject prints) Arches BFK heavy water colour paper (uncoated 100% cotton fin art paper) Iris Semi - Matte coated inkjet proofing photo paper.

1995 - Windows NT 3.51 is introduced as the first Microsoft operating system. This system was the first to have a substantial pruning architecture that had support for AppleTalk, LPR and SMB printing. The Network Digital printing becomes easy from there.
1996 - The Xerox Majestik started offering comparable image quality and colour to Canon CLC range. The colour laser printing market started to beam competitive.

1999 - The Xerox DocuColour 1250 was created to improve colour and image quality in a 12 ppm copier/printer. Xerox DocuColour 4040 is a 40 ppm color printer with a high duty cycle that took the market share from traditional printing. Like the Majestik family the 1250 and 4040 are designed and manufactured by Fuji Xerok for Xerox.

Late 1991s through 2010 - The Ricoh, Konica Minolta and other printer vendors started to make colour laser printers and selling them at low prices that were increasingly competitive with Canon and Xerox.
2008 - Monolithic inkjet technology started to threatens to replace laser printing. The HP’s Edgeline and Silverbrook Research’s Memjet started to look like the first serious contenders to laser printing’s dominance of high workload digital printing but as on today there have been no successful products based on this.

Printing Process:
What makes Digital Printing so unique from the rest of the printing 'crowd' (lithography, flexography, gravure, letterpress) is that no printing plate is needed, which in turn results in a quicker an less expensive turn around time. The most popular Digital Printing methods are Inkjet and Laser printers that can distribute pigment or toner onto a mass variety of materials such as canvas, glass, metal, photo paper, marble and, of course, paper.

Both consumer and professional inkjet or laser printers use the most common examples of digital printing. Professional companies are now using these methods to go green by using better quality ink and better laser etching to get a clear, crisp picture that is displayed through digital printing.

When it comes to conventional ink, the ink or toner tends to smudge and/or distort the material. This is not the case with Digital Printing. Instead of permeating the printing material, digital printing forms a thin layer on the surface by using a fuser fluid with heat process (toner) or UV curing process (ink).

Advantages of Digital Printing:
- Less expensive than Offset
- Accurate proofing
- Very fast production time (On-Demand)
- It is the future and is still in the 'fine tuning' process

Disadvantages of Digital Printing:
- Limited paper choices
- Less colour range and accuracy as opposed to offset
- Limited finishing choices
- Limited choice of material sizes, styles, and formats

Fine art inkjet printing - This method has been developed over the last two decades that use dye based inks, prepared canvass, and various textiles.This has allowed for the creation of accurate reproductions of 2 dimensional work. It allows for the output of digital art of any type as finished pieces or as an element in a further art piece.

Digital laser exposure - This method uses digital images that are exposed onto light sensitive photographic paper. It is then processed with lasers in photographic developers and fixers. These prints have a continuous tone in the image detail. The quality of the print is as high as the manufacturer's rathing for any given photo paper used. The greatest advantage comes with the large format prints. Since no lens is used, these is no detail distortion in the corners of the image.

Digital printing has grown very significantly over the past few years with developments in quality of print and sheet sizes. The three main digital printing presses are the HP Indigo, Xerox iGen, and Kodak Nexpress.