The Future of the Printing Industry

10 Jan 2020

Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash

The printing industry has been one of the longstanding industry in the world. And it continues to be resilient despite the “Print is dead” statements. Indeed, technology has really made everything faster and easier that people are thinking that print and printing is obsolete. But, print is here to stay. It has innovated and kept up with the times which is why it will never be dead.

History of Printing

Printing has been around since 3000 BCE, where Mesopotamian civilizations used round seals for rolling impressions into clay tablets.(1) First produced in Susa in ancient Iran and the Sumerian city of Uruk in Mesopotamia, these small cylindrical objects bore engravings of written text and scenes depicting people and animals. The cylinders were rolled on pieces of clay tablets so that the engravings could be imprinted on them. These clay tablets, which often served important social or administrative functions, were among the first documents ever produced by our species.

Printing Goes Digital

To keep up with the times, the printing industry also innovated itself. While dot matrix printers and offset printing still exist, printing has gone digital. In fact, this is a long term trend that has really picked up in the last few years. Digital printing has grown to capture more than 50 percent of the printing market share shunting offset printing to the side.(3) Over half of contemporary print professionals say that adding digital infrastructure is one of their top priorities over the next 3 years. There are several advantages that digital printing has over traditional lithographic printing methods. Alex Hepgurn, who’s an Engineer at Cartridge Ink, tells us about some benefits.

Reduced costs - There can up to 30% decrease in client costs.
Increased profits - Over 70% of print professionals report increased profits after migration.
Customer approval - 60% of print professionals report improvement in customer satisfaction, retention and acquisition.
Increase in work load - since speeds are bumped op by 50%, the company can take on more work than before.

Besides these advantages, digital printing also has the advantage of being a technologically advanced medium. Thus, there is constant innovation in the field, which in turn helps bring down costs and appeal to niche, hard-to-reach markets. Alex further talks about some recent research/development and future of printing.(4)

Ricoh has a big range of digital printers that can help in your business.

Printing Goes Eco-Friendly

The world is now more aware of the effects of its activities to the environment. Nowadays, companies are moving towards being environmental friendly and sustainable. Customers are also demanding companies to do the same as they will only choose brands who are in line with their ideals. This has also affected the printing industry.

You can already see that all major Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have sections on their websites devoted to cartridge recycling.

Additionally, cartridge recycling is also being taken up by local organisations.

However, the real environment related development from the angle of the future of printing technology will occur with the use of ink and toner inside the cartridges.

More and more printers are now sporting features that allow users to save ink and energy.

The future of printing technology is heading towards more efficient use of the ink and toner. For instance, ink compositions have changed over time to prevent the drying up of the ink in the cartridge. This is being done to ensure that ink inside ink cartridges lasts longer while sealed inside the package or even installed in the printer. Ricoh has been in the forefront of this sticking to their ideals towards sustainability. Ricoh not only develops environmental friendly products but also aims to reduce the environmental impacts of our products and services through conservation of biodiversity, GHG emission reduction, resource conservation programs, waste recycling and pollution prevention throughout its business sites.

Ink and toner particles and compositions are being reengineered to reduce power consumption and wastage while simultaneously increasing output. For example, toner particles are getting smaller and smaller to create more defined images as well as reduce the power consumption of the printer. Smaller particles melt quicker, which means that less heat is required. Since less heat is needed, power consumption goes down as well.(3)

Printing Goes 3-D

Printing was always just 2-D. Printing was done on paper, fabric, etc. But now, there is a rise in 3-D printers. 3D printing is printing that is done three dimensionally. This means that there is no substrate, ink, or toner. Everything is done in the air. In the simplest terms, 3D printing is creating products by printing them. A 3D printer does this by using specific materials in place of ink or toner and putting them together like a normal printer, except that it put layers on top of each other till they start thickening up. As a result, a digital image of a physical item can be converted into a real object.(3)

The future implications of this technology are enormous. As it becomes more affordable, more accessible, and more advanced, 3D printing can revolutionize manufacturing by allowing production to take place near or exactly at the point of consumption. Meaning to say, ordinary individuals will be able to manufacture the goods they need, when they want them. Current economic models will shift, as the manufacturing powerhouses that we know of today—whether countries or corporations—will no longer have the distinct advantages that they possess at present.

Another implication is that prototyping and customization in manufacturing will be so much easier. Creativity will be the name of the game, and with prototyping and customization becoming so effortless, innovators will be able to focus on the creating groundbreaking tools and contrivances that will address many of the problems that plague our lives today.(2)

Advanced Technologies In Printing

The printing industry will continue to innovate in more ways than one. Some of the advanced technologies are photonic printing and conducive inks.

Photonics, the science of light or photon generation, detection, and control, is currently being applied by innovative organizations that are hoping to develop invisible photonic printing techniques. The technology will be valuable for a variety of applications, including for identification and watermarking purposes, for anti-counterfeiting and anti-forgery endeavors, as well steganography, the practice of hiding messages or information within readable text or visible images.

Conductive inks, on the other hand, have the potential to change the way the printed medium is used for communication, marketing, and advertising. Currently being produced from materials like silver nanoparticles and conductive polymers, these inks are essentially circuits that allow the paper or substrate to become connected to the digital word. Imagine a seemingly ordinary poster having the same kind of capacitive sensing capability like a touchscreen display.

Conductive ink can be used in many other applications, including the production of smart clothing printed with flexible electronic inks, as well as the creation of soft machines, like bendable robots that can be used for search and rescue operations.(2

The future of printing looks bright and exciting with all the new technologies and innovations coming around. Those saying "print is dead" should think twice before saying that. The printing industry has evolved along with the times.



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