Our summer series of blog posts discussed the major types of printing processes that can be used in a modern printing business. Our fall series will clarify some confusing terminology you may hear at trade shows that bring together print industry experts from different backgrounds.
Some of our print business glossaries will focus on terms from screen printing, offset printing, flexographic printing, wide-format printing, garment decorating, and signmaking. But in this first post in our glossary series, we’ll discuss some emerging print processes and define some specialized processes for niche markets.
Nanography® is the process invented by Benny Landa the original creator of Indigo liquid-toner presses. According to Landa Digital Printing, Nanography® offers the quality, speed and cost of production printing with the flexibility of digital technology and support for a variety of off-the-shelf substrates.
Nanography® ejects billions of nano-sized pigment particles (measured in billionths of a meter) on blankets where the droplets dry immediately. The press then transfers the dry images from the blankets to the standard materials used by commercial printers, publishers, and packaging companies.
3D Printing (also known as additive manufacturing) is the process of making a 3D object from a digital file. It is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing in which a milling machine carves material away from a solid piece of plastic or metal material to make a 3D object. Print-service providers the Massivit 1800 large-format 3D printer to make props and mannequins for retail displays, out-of-home advertising, experiential marketing, and exhibits. Mimaki’s 3DFF-222 desktop 3D printer can be used to make custom jigs for direct-to-object printers or specialized parts for dimensional signage. 3DResyns makes specialty resins that can be used to make flexographic printing plates on 3D printers.
4D Printing is an extension of 3D printing that uses specialized materials. With 4D printing, the printed objects can change shape after they are printed. The shape changes are triggered by water, heat, wind, or other forms of energy.
Functional Printing is a catch-all phrase for 2D and 3D printing processes that increase the functionality of a manufactured item. Functional printing processes are used to produce sensors, solar cells, QR codes, bar codes, RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags, and OLED displays and batteries. Functional printing can include different types of 3D printing, printed electronics, or industrial printing processes that extend the durability or performance of manufactured products.
Printed Electronics refers to functioning circuitry and sensors that have been printed with conductive or graphene inks on specialized screen, flexographic, gravure, offset, or inkjet devices. Interest in printed electronics is rising as manufacturers seek to build the “Internet of Things” that will enable people to connect to the Internet via apparel, automobiles, medical devices. Printers with backgrounds in engineering have benefitted from the growing demand for prototyping and testing of new types of wearables, in-mold electronics for automotive applications, medical devices, and military gear.
Specialized Printers for Specific Applications
Production Photo Printers are high-speed inkjet printers specifically designed to print packages of small-format photo prints or pages that will be bound into photo books or albums. Canon’s seven-color Dream Labo 5000 single-pass inkjet press features automated double-sided printing and can produce about 1,000 A4 (8.27 x 11.69 in.) pages per hour, using rolls of glossy, satin, lustre, and metallic photo papers. With this press, photo labs can print about 2,330 4 x 6 in. prints per hour.
Dry Lab Photo Printers (Minilabs) are compact, wide-gamut inkjet printers that can quickly make prints captured by photographers at sporting, school, or social events or in the photo booths set up at events. Examples of “dry lab” photo printer include the Fujifilm DX100 Smartlab Fujifilm DX100 and Epson SureLab D870 Professional Minilab Printer.
Dye-Diffusion Thermal Transfer Printers are compact, portable digital printing devices that are used for quick production of event photo prints, passport photos, or personalized ID cards. When a platen roller presses a dye-coated ribbon and substrate into a thermal printhead, the heat dye diffuses (“sublimates”) into the coated substrate. The color is fixed as the substrate cools. Makers of dye-diffusion thermal transfer printers include Zebra, Mitsubishi, and Sony.
Digital Enhancement Press. These “presses” use UV-curable inkjet technology to add tactile or visual enhancements to longer runs of labels, packaging, cover stocks, and promotional materials printed on cut-sheet or narrow-web analog or digital printing devices. Adding textures or foils increases the perceived value of a printed piece.
Digital enhancements can include spot varnish, overprinting with metallic foils, or creating the look and feel of embossed lettering or textures without the need for plates, dies, or screens.The Scodix Ultra is an example of digital enhancement press for B1-size cut sheets. It can add textures and foils to sheets printed on offset presses or HP Indigo presses.
The MGI JETvarnish 3D digital enhancement press can add varnishes, textures, and foils to materials printed on narrow-web offset or flexo presses as well as label printers from Konica Minolta, Epson, Xeikon
Wide-format flatbed inkjet printers that use UV-curable inks can add digital enhancements by applying layers of clear varnish to selected areas of the design.
It Pays to Expand Your Vocabulary
Understanding the full range of processes and materials used to produce graphics and customized products help you understand why it is becoming increasingly challenging to sell printing services solely based on price.
Production costs will continue to vary widely from one print shop to another as each shop uses a different mix of automation, printing and finishing equipment, and materials to achieve similar types of graphics. But the final purchasing decision is often determined by the different types of value-added services the print-service provider offers to meet the customers’ own business goals.