Printing as a process was discovered thousands of years ago; it has undergone significant transformation ever since and is still evolving continuously. Thus, naturally, over time, a multitude of different printing methods have come into existence. It is up to a business to choose what kind of printing will be most effective for a given purpose.
With the advent of technology, printing has become much faster and efficient compared to what it was a century ago. Moreover, with so many options available, you will be spoilt for choice while choosing among them. l Let’s go through the most popular ones and decode what is best for you.
When it comes to mass-production printing, few methods are more popular than the offset type. It is also sometimes referred to as lithography or offset lithography. Additionally, this method is quite versatile, which means you can use it to print on a range of different materials. These materials include wood, canvas, paper, cloth, and booklet printing.
First, an aluminium plate is printed containing the contents of what needs to go on the print medium. The next step involves transferring this basic image from the aluminium plate rollers or rubber blankets. This process is known as offset and hence the name for the type of printing.
One of the benefits of offset printing is that the medium of print, be it paper, cloth or wood, doesn’t come in contact with the metal plate at all. This increases the life of the metal plates and hence reduces costs in printing. Furthermore, the rollers can be used with any print media that has a rough surface. All together, the quality, speed and versatility make it one of the most popular printing methods.
Another method that is quite popular among those who require high volume printing is flexography. However, the main difference between this and offset printing is that flexography is used mainly to print on uneven surfaces. Some even call it the 21st century version of letterpress printing. The main products used in this type of printing are semi-liquid inks that have a fast drying rate.
The printing plates used in this method are a form of photopolymer plates that are rolled around cylinders. These cylinders are connected to a motor that rotates them. The content that needs to be transferred to the print media is raised a bit from the surface of the photopolymer plate. This allows the print media to be embossed with the contents. Mainly, this method is used for making wallpapers, gift wraps and other packaging.
Digital printing is one of the newest methods that is gaining popularity at a rapid rate. It has become the go-to method for making posters, signage, newsletters, labels and so on. Under digital printing, you find two sets of methods. They are called inkjet printing and laser printing. However, the basic procedure of not using a printing plate remains the same.
What needs to be printed on the media is saved in digital files like PDF and then, a laser or inkjet is used to impose them on the media. More importantly, it is one of the fastest mediums of printing that allows a quick turnaround. Furthermore, it is ideally suited for small scale printing jobs as even a single sheet of print is economically viable. All of this also does not equate to a loss in quality too.
The clue to what this kind of printing does is in the name itself. As you might have guessed, this is used for printing large billboards, posters, banners and more. Additionally, although not extensively, it is used for floor lamination, murals, wallpapers and so on. The priority in this kind of printing is to produce maximum print roll width that is highly preferred in the advertising industry. In other methods, you won’t get this much quality in such a large area of printing.
Rolls of sheets are needed to print massive hoardings or billboards. These rolls are fed incrementally to the press which prints them individually. When combined, they give a high quality image on a large scale.
Another modern method of printing that has an array of applications is screen printing. Usually, it is used for printing clothes, fabrics and posters. The ink is pressed on to the print media through a mesh or other fine material to get the desired print. In between the material is usually stretched out so that a screen is created. However, it isn’t just restricted to fabric and clothing. You can use it to print on paper and metal too.
One of the main disadvantages of using screen printing is that you need to print in bulk for it to be cost effective. On the other hand, it will prove to be the most cost effective method when printing in bulk. Moreover, set-up time to screen print is also one of the highest.
An ultra modern method that is redefining the printing business is 3D printing. As the name indicates, it can be used to print 3 dimensional objects with ease. A digital model is fed into the system and all necessary inputs are provided to a 3D printer. The machine takes in this info and uses additive mixtures that are provided to make the 3D model.
With the passage of time, 3D printers are becoming more and more complex. They have reached such a level that you can print moving parts of sophisticated machines with them. Computer softwares like CAD are also being used to make highly accurate models of the things required.
Another new method that is yet to be adopted on a wide scale is the LED UV method. It is something that can be an alternative to offset printing in the future. You can print on a wide variety of mediums through LED UV. These include newsletter printing, posters, magazines, stationery etc.
The ink is set onto the medium and is dried using the ultraviolet light that is part of the system. This process is known as UV curing and is very cost-effective. Very less ink is required and hence the cost is low. The turnover time is also instantaneous as you don’t have to wait for the ink to dry. Lastly, we can set that LED UV has a very bright future ahead of it.
Printing is becoming more and more versatile with time. Engineers and scientists are constantly innovating and coming up with improvements. However, the ones we have talked about here are the ones that are used widely. All of them have different purposes and each variation will be preferred by a different set of people. So, it is important to choose the one that is best suited to your requirements.