The rise of digital printing in a paperless world

There was a time when printing was a laborious job. Printing plates would have to be prepared and repeatedly replaced, and it could take a very long time to produce just one document.

Today, people can simply plug in and print selfies, documents or an email at the click of a button through digital printing…

What is digital printing?

Digital printing is the process of transferring a document on a personal computer or other digital equipment to a printing device that accepts text and graphic output.

What happens is that the information is reduced to binary code or digitised so that it can be stored and reproduced. There is no need to replace printing plates in digital printing, resulting in a quicker turnaround time and a lower cost.

>See also: No ink required: printing paper with light

While traditionalists may claim that some fine image detail is lost in digital printing, for the modern world where things are needed ‘on demand’, the speed of this medium has outweighed any benefits. And, it’s undoubtedly the reason behind it’s popularity, too.

You’re probably familiar with buying inkjet cartridges to keep your Ricoh, Brother or HP home-office printer working, enabling you do simple digital printing onto paper.

Commercial printing on the other hand requires different kinds (and quantities) of cartridges, churning out larger volumes of printed material on a range of paper sizes.

Is there still a need to print to paper?

While people are communicating more and more via text messages, social media and email, there is still a need to be able to print documents, receipts, advertising flyers and posters or photos to frame.

A lot of people also still want to read conventional newspapers and magazines. Businesses are embracing print media by allowing users to access digital content.

>See also: When print and online collide: Inside The Economist’s digital strategy

This digital content is signposted in their advertising, enabling consumers to interact with it on their phone.

For example, QR codes work via a hidden series of specially designed hyperlinks to enable users to scan over a print advert, poster or leaflet. This then takes customers to a mobile website where they can download discount vouchers, videos or consumer tips.

What are the benefits of digital printing?

Speed is the number one advantage. Some places can offer you same-day service and a three days turn-around seems to be the standard for a large portion of web-based digital printing companies.

According to a report by technology company Ricoh on IT Pro Portal, digital printers now boast features such as fifth ink stations and finishing technologies such as unique paper size handling and booklet finishing.

However, the report suggests that while printing companies are installing digital technology “many are still missing the hidden essentials built around the workflow that manages certain jobs.”

>See also: The future of digital manufacturing

The report says that this comes from the transition of businesses going from managing a small number of large jobs with lithography, to a large number of smaller digital jobs.

For some companies screen printing is the preferred option for designs that require a high level of vibrancy (for example on darker t-shirts), whereas digital would be an option for lighter coloured shirts. Digital is seen as best for items that require high amounts of detail.

Whether you prefer traditional printing or are happy to go digital, it seems that digital printing is going to be the way of the future.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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