Tuesday, July 31, 2012

3D Printing Defined

3D printing is a widely popular term these days, but only a few knows what this printing technique really is. Wikipedia says that 3D printing is an additive “process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital model.” It can be used to make anything, from footwear to jewelry to cars. 

3D materials are often made from the bottom up. The process depends on the kind of material—metal, resin, polymer, etc.—used and printer—industrial or commercial. Industrial 3D printers are often large and expensive but are a lot faster than commercial printers. They are used for rapid prototyping and 3D printed objects. Commercial 3D printers, on the other hand, are smaller and cheaper but slower and lower in resolution.

Flexography: A History

Since it was first used, flexography has gone through significant advances. The process has improved much that it is now extensively used in color printing on different substrates. 

Initially, flexography is called aniline printing since aniline dye inks were used in the process. However, the Food and Drug Administration classified aniline as suitable for food packaging in the 1940w. This resulted in the decline in sales of printing. In 1949, new and safe inks were used in aniline printing but despite the change sales continued to decline. This brought about the need to rename the process. After a poll conducted by Mosstype Corporation, the winning name was flexographic process. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Printing Then and Now: Part IV (The Renaissance)

In the past, creating books or publications is done manually—words and pictures are copied by hand. As such, the books were sold at a very high price. But one man changed that all: Johannes Gutenberg. His introduction of the printing press in 1445 forever changed people’s lives. Books can now be produced as quickly as possible and sold at a much lower cost.

This has prompted the educated middle class who can afford books to demand for more and more books, and this time they want it printed in their own languages. They also demanded for a great variety of books such as poetry, travel books, and almanacs. People also started exploring science and medicine, which brought about the fame of the men of science like Newton and Copernicus. As the demand grew, so does the book trade. The result is a more educated population and a stronger economy.

Gutenberg’s press did helped fuel the economy especially the paper making industry. It has a started an information revolution, similar to the one we experienced when the internet was introduced. Books and information became widely available signaling the end of the Dark Ages and the advent of the Renaissance. This change made Europe the leading world power from then until now.   

Printing Then and Now: Part III (Printing in Asia)

The Chinese first used ink in 250 BC and the brush and paper in the 3rd Century BC. Inks then were made from soot and animal glue, but the chief ingredient of high quality ink was lampblack and glue.

Printing in Ancient China was believed to be one of their greatest inventions which consequently resulted in the development of ink and paper. The earliest prints found in China dates back to 220 BC which used block printing (a printing process where a thin piece of paper is glued to wood and then carved with the characters creating a text or image impression. The earliest woodblock prints collected had printed flowers on various colored silk. The first book published in 868 called Diamond Sutra was printed through this method. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Printing Then and Now: Part II (The Cast-Iron Press)

In the late 18th and early 19th century, the affluent English middle class desired more access to information. This brought about the growing need for newspapers. But the conventional wooden printing presses at that time were not able to meet the growing need.

This gave Charles Mahon, 3rd Earl Stanhope the idea to create the cast-iron press, which features combination of levers that can withstand the pressures of repeated printing. This is known as the Stanhope Press first introduced in 1800. The press is able to create powerful and cleaner impressions ideal for larger formats. It was used to print The Times newspaper in the 19th century. The Gunnersbury Park Museum has the earliest surviving example of the cast-iron press.   

Aside from the Stanhope Press, the Columbian Press is another type of iron hand press. It was create in 1816 by George Clymer of Philadelphia. It can print a whole newspaper page in just one pull. It is sometimes referred to as the Eagle press because of the bald eagle that sits on top of the lever as a counterweight. 

Printing Then and Now: Part I (Overview)

Who would have thought that a simple machine will greatly enhance our lives? What used to be a long and tedious task can now be done in just a matter of seconds. No doubt, the printing press is one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind. From Gutenberg’s printing press to today’s modern computer-operated printing machines, a great deal of changes has gone through the print industry.

But why aren’t we using the same press printers and publishers have used in the 15th and 16th century? What changed with Gutenberg’s invention? Simply put, technology evolved. As people look for better, quicker, and more comfortable means of printing, new technologies have been adapted. It started with steam engines, then later on transformed into electrical engines, and today, we have the computers. Even students can now create and print their own materials. With access to a personal computer or laptop, they can already be the author, editor, and printer of their materials.

Who knows that the future holds? Perhaps future generations will be able to create far better printing machines that will again revolutionize the print industry.    

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Who is Ottmar Mergenthaler?

Ottmar Mergenthaler invented the linotype composing machine in 1886. His invention was a great improvement from Gutenberg’s press that helped authors and the newspaper industry published their stories much easier and quicker. With the time and money they save, they can produce and publish more printed materials that they usually did. The linotype was a much celebrated invention that Thomas Edison even called it the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Mergenthaler worked on the linotype for years until he perfected the first commercially known machine called “The Blower”. It was first used by the New York Herald Tribune. Since, then a lot of improvements have been done on the machine. There were 10,000 linotypes in used by 1904 and the number skyrocketed to 100,000 by 1954. However, the linotype lost favor in the media by the 1960s when photographic typesetting and offset lithography were introduced.   

Sadly, Mergenthaler died young and never really reaped profits from his invention primarily because he agreed to get a $50 buyout royalty early on rather than get ongoing percentage from the machine’s sales.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Alois Senefelder: An Actor, Playwright…and Inventor

The man behind the printing technique of lithography is Alois Senefelder. Initially, Senefelder was an actor and playwright. He had a love for theater, but acting wasn’t really his forte. He did, however, become successful as a writer. His most notable play was the Connoisseur of Girls.

Senefelder discovered lithography when he encountered problems in printing his play Mathilde von Altenstein. He was in huge debts at that time that he was forced to look for an alternative way to cut down the printing cost. He tried experimenting using a greasy, acid resistant ink to etch the play on a fine-grained Solnhofen limestone. Instead of using copper, which is much costly than limestone, he practiced his engravings on slabs of Bavarian limestone. To correct his mistakes while engraving, he used a mixture of soap, wax, lampblack, and rainwater. Limestone and the “correction” mixture then became the primary components of lithography.    

Senefelder preferred to call his invention chemical printing primarily because the process is based on a chemical principle. Since he discovered lithography, he devoted his entire life to it to further develop and refine the process. In 1817, he created the working model of a lithographic printing press and developed the paper printing plates which replaced the bulky limestone. His remarkable invention earned him the Bavarian Royal Inspector of Lithography title given to him by the King of Bavaria in 1809. He died in 1834, but he was able to see his invention become successful as it was adopted both in art print making and pictorial reproduction before he passed away.

Screen Printing Explained

Screen printing, according to Wikipedia, is a “printing technique where the design is imposed on a screen of polyester or other fine mesh, with blank areas coated with an impermeable substance, and ink is forced into the mesh openings of the mesh by the fill blade or squeegee and onto the printing surface during the squeegee stroke.” This technique entails the use of a stencil or screen to apply ink on the printing surface. Different stencil is used for each color, which is applied one at a time and mixed to achieve the final look.    

Screen printing first appeared in 960–1279 AD during the Song Dynasty in China. Later, it was adapted by neighboring Asian countries and become popular in Western Europe in the late 18th century. According to the Printer's National Environmental Assistance Center, “Screen printing is arguably the most versatile of all printing processes. It can be used to print on a wide variety of substrates, including paper, paperboard, plastics, glass, metals, fabrics, and many other materials including paper, plastics, glass, metals, nylon and cotton.” When printing designs that needs to be exceptionally vibrant, screen printing is the best option. The ink used in this technique is much thicker than other methods, thus, creating brightly colored materials. 

Any stretched surface can be screen printed—posters, t-shirts, and even public transportation. With the advancements in printing technology, screen printing has become more affordable. It’s the preferred method of printing these days even over digital printing.

Often, printers have minimum quantity of orders for screen printing. This is because of the materials and labor required to complete the process.  

What is Desktop Publishing?

Desktop Publishing (DTP) is a term used to connote the act of using software on personal computer to create a printed material. In simple terms, it’s a technique used to create printed documents on a desktop PC. The printing can be done either with the use of a home printer or through a professional printing service. DTP, when used expertly, can allow organizations, business owners, and other interested individuals the chance to self-publish any printed material they want, from flyers to billboards, books, and magazines.

What kicked off desktop publishing was the introduction Apple LaserWriter and the PageMaker in 1985. Milestones in desktop publishing are:

·         1984 – the LaserJet was introduced by Hewlett-Packard and the Apple introduced the Macintosh
·         1985 - Adobe introduced PostScript, Aldus developed PageMaker for the Mac, and Apple introduced the LaserWriter.
·         1987 – PageMaker for Windows was introduced.
·         1990 – Microsoft introduced Windows 3.0
·         2003 and beyond – hundreds of printers and manufacturers are now available; Level 3 PostScript and version 7 of PageMaker are now available.  

Gary Starkweather: The Man Behind the Laser Printer

Fast, precise, and inkless. That’s what best describes laser printers. According to Wikipedia, a laser printer is a computer peripheral that that rapidly produces high quality text and graphics on plain paper. It makes use of a xerographic printing process, which is a dry copying technique that makes use of electrostatic charges.

The mad behind laser printers is Gary Starkweather. A graduate of B.S. Physics from Michigan State University and M.S. in Optics from the University of Rochester, Starkweather first thought of creating the laser printer when he was working as a researcher in Xerox’s Webster Research Center. But his idea received opposition from Xerox management. He was told that his project will not have any practical use or would never make it to the market.

But Starkweather is a stubborn man. He knows he has an important machine waiting to be completed, so he persisted and not long after he completed his first prototype in 1969. Two years later, with blessing from Xerox, he had his first working laser printer. With help from Butler Lampson and Ronald Rider, the digital control system and character generator of his printer were created.

In 1977, the group was able to develop the first commercial laser printer called Xerox 9700. Soon after, Starweather shifted his research to personal laser printers. Again, this met opposition from Xerox. As such, Hewlett-Packard beat Xerox in offering the first personal laser printer in 1980.

After 24 years with Xerox, Starweather left the company and joined Apple Computer. After 10 years with Apple Computer, he joined Microsoft Research. In 2004, he was elected to the US National Academy of Engineering

Glossary of Common Printing Terms

A-sizes – Common paper sizes used in creating printed materials. This includes:
  • A0 - 841 x 1189 mm
  • A1 - 594 x 841 mm
  • A2 - 420 x 594 mm
  • A3 - 297 x 420 mm
  • A4 - 210 x 297 mm
  • A5 - 148.5 x 210 mm
  • A6 - 105 x 148.5 mm
  • A7 - 74 x 105 mm
  • A8 - 52 x 74 mm
  • A9 - 37 x 52 mm
  • A10 - 26 x 37 mm

 Acetate – a transparent sheet of paper used to make overlays. 

Additive color – color produced through a light released directly from a source.

Artwork – images or texts that need to be printed

Bind – fastens sheets together with glue, wire, or thread

Bleed – printing extends over the crop marks   

Blind emboss – to emboss without ink

Board paper – paper that is over 110# index, 80# cover or 200 gsm and usually used to create file folders, displays and post cards

Border – the decorative design on a page

CMKYCyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. These are the 4 colors used in full color printing

Coated paper – paper coated with clay and other substrate. The coating can be on one or both sides either in gloss or matt finish

Crop mark – lines at the edge of the image which are to be eliminated

Debossing – the process of creating a depression on a piece of paper

Die cut – creating an irregular shape on a piece of paper instead of creating them with square edges

Digital printing – low cost printing method applicable for short run print jobs. The process is quick but the quality is not the same as lithography   

Embossing – designs pressed on paper create a raised impression

Folding – there are different types of fold such as z fold, gate fold, and roll fold

4-color – printing process that makes use of four process colors of inks

Laminating – a thin plastic film is placed on one or both sides of paper

Lithography – a printing process that where a metal plate is treated so the image area attracts the oil-based inks and the non-image area repels ink

PDF (Portable Device Format) – a file format that combines images and text

Proof – a sample of the material that needs to be printed

Screen printing – printing method where ink is forced to pass through a mesh stencil

Saddle-stitch – the document is wired or stapled on the spine

Uncoated paper - paper that is not coated with clay

Xerography – also called as photocopying

Saturday, July 21, 2012

History and Development of Printing

Since Johannes Gutenberg introduced the printing press in the 1400s, the printing industry has gone through major changes with both cultural and technological forces shaping its history. Historians suggest that printing has brought about the major changes in politics, science, and all other elements that affect life. However, printing and the printing press is not a one-time invention. They are a result of the aggregation of technologies that existed long before Gutenberg.

In a hypertext document entitled Manuscripts, Books, and Maps: The Printing Press and a Changing World written by Bruce Jones, he cited the other inventions that helped Gutenberg create the printing press. This includes:

-          The adaptation of the screw-type press

-          The adaptation of block-print technology

-          The growth of mass production paper-making techniques

-          The development of oil-based inks

-          The development of punch and mold system

The Evolution of Printing: From Gutenberg to 3D Printing

We all know the value of print in day to day activities. We all know how to use printing machines. Yet only a few knows how printing really started

“Diamond Sutra” is considered as the earliest completely printed book to be printed in history. It was printed in China in 868. The Sutra is composed of 7 strips of paper printed from carved wooden blocks pasted together to form a scroll. The text is written in Chinese but the book is mostly about the Buddhist faith.  

Most books printed before Gutenberg       was limited in number and were mostly hand copied by members of religious orders. When the printing press was invented in 1440s, printing has become much cheaper and quicker. This has made book production easier which in turn fostered the development of science, art, and religion. Since then came the various printing processes which has shaped the print production we know today.

Re-living the History of Printing

More than 500 years have passed since Johannes Gutenberg invented the very first printing press. Since then, we have seen how printers have evolved from creative craftsmen to digital communicators. While it’s much more convenient to use expensive and sophisticated presses these days, print leaders, stakeholders, and everyone involved in printing should still know how to appreciate the history of printing. After all, knowing the past is the key to the future.          

The Museum of Printing founded in 1979 is the edifice of printing’s rich history. It narrates how printing has transformed people’s lives from ancient Mesopotamia until the present time. The American history and all pivotal moments in between are narrated through newspaper documents as exhibited in the museum. This includes newspaper accounts from the American Revolution to the Civil War to the Digital Age.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Milestones in the History of Printing

105 AD – Credited with inventing paper, Chinese government official Ts’ai Lun presented the Emperor Han Ho Ti with samples of paper.

868 AD – The Buddhist scripture Diamond Sutra was made using block printing. One of the oldest types of printing process, block printing existed as early as the 5th century BC with roots in East Asia, particularly China. The process involves using a carved material (usually wood) covered in ink to press an image on to paper or fabric.

1041 - 1048 AD Pi Sheng (or Bi Sheng) invents movable type made of baked clay and were set in an iron form, stabilized using heated resin and wax. Wang Zhen, a government official, later on improved the process by creating types out of wood. The movable type is intergral in the development of printing technology. The movable components made it possible to reproduce the elements – letters and punctuations – of a document instead of manually carving an individual block to print an entire page.