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Innovation in Print

As we turn towards a new year I have a tendency to reminisce on the past and ponder the speed in which technological advances are made. It is mind boggling! I was just reading an article where the US has launched its 26th SpaceX rocket this year – since when did rocket launches happen so frequently they became non-news?

As I was thinking about that I began to think (as I usually do) about the advances in the print industry. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press (arguably one of the most important inventions in history) in 1450. That simple platen press was the method everyone used until the invention of the “offset press” in 1875 a mere 425 years. The offset press, which still produces the “bulk” of printed pages, yet it is steadily losing page counts to “digital” presses which were invented and placed into production as early as 1959 (Xerox’s 1st machine weighed more than 650 pounds and was apt to catch fire). Widespread adoption of “digital” presses didn’t really occur until the early 1990’s. So, if my math is correct, offset’s reign lasted about 115 years. The new frontier seems to be “inkjet” technology which burst on the commercial printing scene in 2015. The technology has an astounding ability to disperse 165,000 droplets per second (sure beats setting type by hand!) allowing for photographic quality printing – our Holy Grail. Will “digital’s” reign last a mere 25 years?

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