- Digital printing
Part of a series on the History 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) 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) Stereolithography (1986) Digital press (1993) 3D printing (ca. 2003)
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 will match or supersede offset printing technology's ability to produce larger print runs at a low price.
The main difference between digital printing and traditional methods such as lithography, flexography, gravure, or letterpress is that no printing plates are used, resulting in a quicker and less expensive turn around time. 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.
Consumer and professional printers such as inkjet or laser printers use the most common examples of digital printing. Professional companies now use those practices to go green by using better quality ink and better laser etching to get a more crisp picture that is displayed through digital printing.
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 and may in some systems be additionally adhered to the substrate by using a fuser fluid with heat process (toner) or UV curing process (ink).
Digital printing methods of note
Fine art inkjet printing
Large format inkjet printers have been developed over the last two decades that use dye based inks or archival, lightfast pigment based inks that can be applied to a variety of traditional media including smooth or highly textured watercolor paper, prepared canvass, and various textiles. This has allowed for the creation of accurate series reproductions of 2 dimensional artworks. It also allows for the output of digital art of all types as finished pieces or as an element in a further art piece. This type of digital printing is commonly known as Giclee, Digigraph, and other coined or trade names. Today the artist can get the same result by using digital printing. He can produce even a single original print. Original print, is determined by a wax seal with the back of the print + handwritten artist statement.
Digital laser exposure onto traditional photographic paper
Digital images are exposed onto true, light sensitive photographic paper with lasers and processed in photographic developers and fixers. These prints are true photographs and have continuous tone in the image detail. The archival quality of the print is as high as the manufacturer's rating for any given photo paper used. In large format prints, the greatest advantage is that, since no lens is used, there is no vignetting or detail distortion in the corners of the image.
Digital printing technology has grown significantly over the past few years with substantial developments in quality and sheet sizes. The four main digital printing presses are the Canon imagePRESS, HP Indigo, Xerox iGen and Kodak Nexpress all have their points of differences and advantages.
Digital printing has many advantages over traditional methods. Some applications of note include:
- Desktop publishing – inexpensive home and office printing is only possible because of digital processes that bypass the need for printing plates
- Variable data printing – uses database-driven print files for the mass personalization of printed materials
- DIY publishing – a cost effective way of printing a small number of poetry, zine, graphic novel or art books.
- Fine art – archival digital printing methods include real photo paper exposure prints and giclée prints on watercolor paper using pigment based inks.
- Print on Demand – digital printing is used for personalized printing for example, children's books customized with a child's name, photo books (such as wedding photo books), or any other short run books of varying page quantities and binding techniques.
- Advertising – often used for outdoor banner advertising and event signage, in trade shows, in the retail sector at point of sale or point of purchase, and in personalized direct mail campaigns.
- Photos – digital printing has revolutionized photo printing in terms of the ability to retouch and color correct a photograph before printing.
Latest Developments in digital printing
The digital printing press can offer significant benefits thanks to ground breaking technology. Smaller toner particles, greater reduction in fuser oil allows digital printing to have a very near offset look and feel. Greater stocks ranges and closer PMS colour matching are achievable.
- Color management
- Computer to film
- Computer to plate
- Digital image processing
- Display device
- Digital photography
- Graphical output device
- Society for Imaging Science and Technology, IS&T
- Variable data printing
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