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Printing Technology Today & Beyond

June 4, 2019  |  
Digital printer

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The way a product is printed is as important as the design of the product itself. It's essential for companies that rely on printing services to have a fundamental understanding of different printing technology in order to ensure that they're choosing the best option for the job. Printing speed, the quantity of a print run, and the quality control that goes into an order are factors that should be considered when working with a printing provider.

This primer will explain the most common printers and what they're used for as well as the most popular types of ink and more.

Popular Types of Printing

Offset Printing

In its simple terms, offset printing is when the inked image is transferred from a customized plate, to a rubber blanket, then directly on the paper. Offset printing is best used for professional projects with a large number of runs that have accurate high details and need high-quality color reproduction, as offset printing can use higher quality inks and adjust to ink density. This type of printing is best used when print runs exceed approximately 100,000 units, as it can be printed quickly. The ink used in offset printing is thick and a similar texture to liquid paste.

offset printing 

Flexographic Printing

Flexographic printing typically uses a big flexible plate, cylinder, or sleeve to transfer a design onto a printed material - it works in a way similar to a very effective rubber stamp. Flexographic printers typically produce products like film, cellophane, foil, and label materials. This printing type is ideal for large print runs because flexo printer plates need to be customized for each project, which takes time. Overall, flexographic printing isn't a cost-effective solution for small-size print runs.

flexographic printing example

Digital Printing

Digital printing transfers toner or liquid ink directly onto the printed material, such as a piece of paper. Digital printers are compact, have a fast turn-around time, and are commonly used for home and office, as users can easily print a single unit. This printing type also allows users to make last minute changes and print a multitude of different variations. Digital printing dries quickly and is a cost-effective solution for small-size print runs.

UV printing (also known as ultraviolet printing) is a popular type of digital printing that uses ultraviolet lights to instantly dry specialty ink after it's printed on the material. Due to its fast printing speed, the ink used in UV printing is an ideal choice for high-quantity print runs. Laser printing, another subsection of digital printing, uses toner instead of ink. Toner is a fine powder printing agent and is fused onto the paper using heat that produces high sharp quality and prints quickly.

digital printing

The Importance of High-Quality Ink

Ink is arguably the most important factor in printing, as it impacts the overall appearance and consistency of the colors in a printed product. High-quality ink often guarantees a high level of consistency in large runs.

It's important for both black and colored inks to be consistent, as color unity is an essential part of brand marketing. For example, the colors in a brand's logo should always appear the same way in high runs of printed collateral.

Pantone inks are used due to the fact that they always look the same, no matter how heavy or light the ink is, the color will always look consistent. Ink also plays a major role in the speed of printing and how the final printed product can be used, like whether or not your poster could be laminated, or how your window decal will look after long-term exposure to heat and sunlight. The ink that's used may also determine if a product is scratch, heat, cold, and water resistant.

Temporary tattoos are a great example of the significance of ink quality in a printed product.
For health and safety reasons, high-quality ink should also be a key factor for temporary tattoos. The ink used in temporary tattoos should clearly state that it's made without lead or mercury, and should be easily removed with everyday household products like baby oil.

The Most Common Issues In Printing

Color Quality

Customers aren't satisfied if their colors aren't printed how they originally wanted. Typically, this happens when a file isn't converted from RGB to CMYK. Getting back to the basics of printing, colors used in web design differ from print design. Web designs use the RGB (Red, Green, and Blue) color principle and physical print media uses CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) colors. Since CMYK can only produce limited colors, printers can add Orange, Green and Violet (OGV) inks in order to create a wider gamut. While CMYK can sometimes vary, when a Pantone color code is used, it will always appear exactly the same.

Poor Print Resolution

When it comes to printing files and images, it's important to consider the DPI, a number that stands for Dots Per Inch that makes up a printed image. Pixels Per Inch (also known as PPI), describes the pixels per inch on a digital screen. The higher the DPI, the higher the image quality will be. When it comes to printing files, 300 DPI is standard. Most files that are being printed shouldn't be any lower than 150 DPI.

Sustainability and The Future of Printing Technology

Sustainability is one of the most important considerations of the future of printing technology. Fifty years ago, petroleum-based inks were some of the most popular inks on the market because they dried quickly and were cost-effective. However, petroleum-based inks are toxic and notorious for their negative environmental impact, as they're made from a non-renewable resource. They also release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) during the drying process. Commercial and consumer products that contain VOC emissions are one of the most significant contributors to smog and air pollution.

printing technology graphic

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StickerYou blog posts are written and published by members of the  at our headquarters, located in the beautiful city of Toronto, Canada.