Technology is developing at a rapid pace and changing many established methods of accomplishing tasks and completing projects. The print and design industries are excellent examples of areas seeing these changes and innovations. To remain competitive and profitable, both large and small print business owners are encouraged to educate themselves on the latest developments in their industries, particularly in software and machine features. Some recent print technology innovations worth noting include high-speed digital printing on demand, three-dimensional printing, hybrid print processes and the increased efficiency of digital print workflows.
Developments in Digital Inkjet Printing
Offset printing has long been an industry standard, but the market demand for it has seen a steady drop due to the process’s longer workflow times and lack of cost-effectiveness. As commercial inkjet printers have become faster, more reliable and of higher quality, these machines are quickly replacing offset print presses. Professional-grade, high-speed inkjet printers are now capable of rendering text at up to 4,000 words per minute, and speeds for images and graphics are not far behind.
Digital print technology is not only much faster; it can also render designs much more intricate than print professionals could have accomplished in the recent past. Varying surface finishes can now be printed on the same project, and three-dimensional graphic designs can now be printed with more realistic depth. These creative possibilities allow designers to put together eye-catching projects with fewer limitations than they would have found with offset printing.
The Rise of 3D Printing
Printing is no longer confined to flat sheets of paper, and the same mechanical processes can now be applied to rendering three-dimensional objects from raw material. This innovation has caught significant attention within the print and design industries, and many print business owners have taken note of the creative as well as the manufacturing possibilities. Rendering replacement appliance and machine parts is now a service found in some print companies whose owners would not have conceived of the idea in the past. Larger scale commercial 3D printing also has the potential for innovations in the trade show exhibit specialty field. As the demand for visually unique display booths increases, design companies that utilize 3D printing for booth pieces are in a great position to draw this type of exhibitor clientele.
Software Innovations for Print Businesses
Graphic design software for print projects now has a wider range of features and tools, allowing for easier workflows, better file compatibility and more collaboration between designers in different geographic locations. New design software suites now include three-dimensional tools that allow designers to create parts and objects without the need for extensive engineering knowledge.
Even two-dimensional printed projects can now be completed with more cost-effective methods, thanks to the greater flexibility of modern design software. The need for film media and offset print machines is in a steady decline as more of the same results can be accomplished electronically with software workflows. The learning curve of these design suites may be somewhat steeper in the beginning for new users, but print company owners who invest in them are seeing the benefits in terms of higher project quality in less time.
Hybrid Print Technologies
Despite the fast pace of technological innovation, print and design businesses do not have to switch to purely digital processes overnight. They can instead integrate both digital and offset processes thanks to computer-to-print-plate automation. This process allows the user to send finished image files to electronic plates that are able to recognize them, using technologies similar to those found in desktop scanners. Due to improvements in these print plates, hybrid processes can also accommodate more complex print projects with many different colors and finishes. Along with digital printing, software improvements and 3D developments, these print industry innovations are helping this field evolve to meet changing 21st-century demands.