25 years of digital

Jo Francis
Friday, December 14, 2018

Jo Francis muses on 25 years of ever-more-sophisticated digital printing technology.

It doesn’t seem like five minutes, let alone five years, since I wrote this article looking at ’20 years of digital printing’.

And now here we are coming to the end of a year that marked a quarter of a century of digital print developments. Digital printing in one way or another is now an everyday part of most printing companies, and something that continues to be a transformative technology for this industry.

In fact, I’m so old that I remember visiting a bureau (remember them?) in the late 1980s and seeing a Canon CLC colour laser copier for the very first time.

I recall being impressed that the chap who owned the bureau had spotted an opportunity to produce some relatively rudimentary colour print that was an absolute boon for his customers, as short-run colour printing had been unaffordable for them up to that point.

We're now in an age where digital printing is used for pretty much everything and anything, even though it hasn’t totally taken over in the manner of some predictions. There’s a lot of life in litho (and flexo etc, etc) yet.

The other week I went to see Fujifilm’s new Jet Press 750S, and I was struck by the comments made by existing Jet Press customers about how and what they use their presses for. The Jet Press can be considered ‘slow’ by conventional standards, but it’s no good thinking about this, or any other digital printing technology, in conventional terms.

By way of an example, we also wrote about a new MGI B1 press the other day that seems to be an all-singing, all-dancing setup for printing and a raft of special finishes. It will be fascinating to see what the first users of this machine actually do with it.

Be it price, speed, quality, running costs, uptime, click charges, workflow benefits, special finishes, what it can actually print onto… Assessing any digital device can be a complicated business.

I’ve never bought a digital press (if I’d been smarter I would have found a way to get myself a Canon CLC after that bureau experience. I’d probably be retired now if I had). But from many years of observing companies that are successful, be it with low- or high-end digital print tech, the key thing to me seems to be this: be open-minded.

Hone in on what digital printing technology can do, or do differently, rather than be fixated on a potentially irrelevant comparison to conventional metrics.  

A quarter of a century has gone by very fast, and today the digital opportunity really is vast for those with the right mindset.




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