April 20, 2024
Commercial Printing

The Dynamic Evolution of Commercial Printing: From Movable Type to Digital Transformation

Background of Printing

Printing has come a long way since its origins in China in the 8th century. Movable type printing was invented in China during the Tang Dynasty and later spread to Korea and Japan. Johannes Gutenberg introduced mechanical movable type printing to Europe in the 15th century, a development that is widely regarded as marking the start of the modern period. Early printing was done using hand-set movable type, a labor and time-intensive process. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, new printing technologies like lithography and steam power changed the industry.

Advancements in Printing Technology

The invention of photography and its use in photoengraving in the late 19th century allowed images and text to be reproduced together economically for the first time. Photoengraving and halftone technology enabled complex images and photographs to be included alongside text in Commercial Printing. printed materials. Around the same time, Linotype machines automated the typesetting process and increased productivity. Offset lithography, which allowed images and text to be printed using a plate, rose to prominence in the 1950s and drove much of the later development of digital prepress workflows. Computer-to-plate technology in the 1980s eliminated the need for many intermediate steps between design and printing plates.

Digital Transformations in Printing

The advent of desktop publishing software in the 1980s introduced the first steps towards digital printing. Early programs like PageMaker allowed designers to lay out pages visually and include placeholder graphics Commercial Printing . PostScript, the page description language developed by Adobe in the 1980s, enabled precise control of typesetting and graphics. Prepress transitioned from physical processes like film to digital files. In the 1990s, the development of PDF as a standard file format streamlined digital workflows. Four-color process printing became the norm for full-color reproduction. Today, commercial printers are fully digital, with design, prepress, printing and finishing all digitized. Computer-to-press technology directly outputs file-based jobs to digital or conventional presses.

Growth of Digital and On-Demand Printing

Wide-format and large-format digital presses have enabled a new generation of signage, graphics and display applications. Continuous feed inkjet technology is well-suited for variable data, one-off jobs like books on demand. The rise of online printing has supported short-run, personalized print jobs, bringing convenience for smaller orders. Digital printing techniques like toner and inkjet allow for customization and personalization in sectors like publishing and packaging. On-demand capabilities have challenged the economics of long print runs by making it feasible to print just a single copy if needed. Hybrid digital/offset printers leverage the strengths of both technologies for multipage, full-color printing. The digital printing market continues gaining share annually.

Expansion of Applications and Services

Commercial printers today offer a full suite of related services beyond basic print production. Common value-added services include fulfillment, mailing, digital asset management, personalization, variable data printing, and cross-media campaigns. Printers integrate physical and digital channels, connecting print to websites, mobile apps and e-commerce. Evolving sectors like textiles, ceramics, plastics, wood and glass expand the substrates that can be printed on. Emerging technologies like 3D and additive manufacturing open new product areas. With diverse capabilities and platforms, many commercial printers now bill themselves as creative marketing partners rather than just service bureaus. They are moving ‘beyond print’ to provide broader integrated communication solutions.

While print volumes have declined in recent decades due to digital displacement and recession impacts, commercial printing remains a substantial industry. New sales are often generated by expanding into related services and new applications versus traditional print alone. Post-pandemic, some anticipate a renewed interest in print as marketers seek to differentiate with premium physical experiences. The latest industry forecast project a slow but steady recovery and long-term 2% average annual growth. Commercial printers are adapting to changing buyer and supplier relationships through technology investments, new production capabilities, and comprehensive marketing solutions designed for the digital era. Successfully navigating ongoing transformations depends on the ability to innovate business models while still serving core print production needs.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it