Printer Manufacturers – Our Lifeline To The Printed Word

Most of us take things such as banners, letterheads, printed cartons, visiting cards, and other printed stuff for granted. Nobody bothers to think about the technology that goes into the machines used to print the text and graphics on these materials. Whenever you require a hard copy of a document, you simply open the file on your computer, select the printer (if you have more than one printer installed), choose the number of copies you want printed, and click on the `Print' button. Once the printing process is over, you retrieve the document from the printer and use it as required. Nobody bothers to think about the different types of technologies and the complicated machinery used by printer manufacturers to provide you with a gadget that gives life to the soft copy of the document on the printer.

The different types of print technology used

A couple of decades ago, the humble letterpress was the only way one could get their documents printed (Heidelberg was the founder father of printing). It used to take lots of time to set the individual characters and numbers on a grid to compose words. Images had to be first screened and then etched on a zinc plate before they could be used on the letterpress. The name of this process was halftone. The quality of the image depended on the number of dots per square inch (hence the term DPI). However, this process was quite laborious and it was not long before printer manufacturers came out with the lithogravure printing process. It was not long before printer manufacturers started manufacturing offset presses. This simplified the printing process and automated it largely. The quality and speed of printing also increased substantially.

The phototypesetting process

With the entrance of the phototypesetter, the composing process became extremely simple. It consisted of a device connected to a dedicated computer. Text along with graphics used to be arranged on dedicated publishing programs such as "Page Maker." The operator now had the liberty of changing entire blocks of text or cutting and pasting them within a couple of seconds. Once the composing job was over, the operator used to issue a print command, and the phototypesetting machine would "expose" the entire page on a light-sensitive material (either paper or film). This was the base material for making offset printer plates. Unfortunately, these printers were not cost-effective for short print runs. Also, the costs of these machines were extremely high and one needed professionally trained personnel to carry out the printing process. However, the world was about to witness another change.

Inkjet and laser printers

Thanks to modern technology used by printer manufacturers, we now have inkjet and laser printers. They are pocket friendly and are commonly found in offices and homes all over the world. The digital printer is the latest addition to this group. It is perfect for those who want print runs of a couple of hundred sheets, as it is not cost-effective to print out so many copies on a desktop inkjet or laser printer.