Automation is a process that more and more industries are aiming towards. Whether it’s by necessity or a simple result of progress and innovation, markets, including the printing industry, see plenty of benefits in automating their process.
The printing industry has largely relied on automation, from the invention of the printing press to today’s full-colour printers that can produce tens of thousands of pages in an hour.
The History of Printing
The history of print and printmaking runs parallel with the history of civilisation. The process is integral to the development of different cultures across the world.
The earliest records of printing are found from 3000 BC when Mesopotamians used cylinder seals to impress images onto clay tablets. The first forms of printing using ink originated in AD 200 China, where people made woodblock carvings, inking the raised parts and then pressing them onto paper.
However, it wasn’t until the 15th century that this woodcut relief printing technique reached Europe. The ink was primarily made of soot from oil lamps and varnish or linseed oil.
Back then, this printing process was mostly used for stamps, seals, and other short prints. Books were rare since they had to be laboriously handwritten by a scribe. But with the introduction of the printing press shortly after, the printing industry started to flourish.
The Invention of the Printing Press
Johannes Gutenberg, a German goldsmith, is credited with inventing the printing press. The Gutenberg press replaced the wood used in woodblock printing with metal blocks and then incorporated the design of movable type.
With this invention, Gutenberg printed calendars, pamphlets and other short ephemera. By 1452, Gutenberg produced his first printed book: the Bible. It is estimated that he printed around 180 copies of what is known today as the Gutenberg Bible.
Later, the workers who helped Gutenberg construct the printing press taught the trade to others. Between 1470 and 1495, the printing press spread to France, Spain, Portugal, England and other parts of Europe.
By 1605, the first official newspaper was published. Relation, printed and distributed in Strasbourg, started the spread of newspapers across the continent. This shows the printing press's significant contribution to the growth of literacy and making information accessible to ordinary people.
Modern Automation in the Printing Industry
From the 16th to the 20th century, there were plenty of innovations to the original printing press. From the Stanhope press to the use of chromolithography, the automation of printing methods gave way to the printing of coloured Christmas cards and magazines by the thousands.
In 1938, Chester Carlson invented xerography, a dry photocopying technique that led to the development of the first commercial xerographic copier in 1949. Ten years later, the Xerox 914 plain paper copier machine was born.
In 1975, laser printers hit the market, although they were prohibitively expensive at the time. But with the use of computers, the desktop publishing and digital printing methods that we know today started.
Today, in the 21st century, the printing industry is more alive than ever. Areas of printing, such as product packaging and label printing, are flourishing.
The process of printing has come a long way since the Gutenberg press. And with technical advancements coming in leaps and bounds, it’s no surprise that the already automated process can become even more efficient with every innovation.
Types of Automation in Printing
There are many processes involved in printing that benefit from automation.
The printing process itself is automated. From platemaking to pressing the plates onto paper, these are all done by machine with minimal manual intervention, apart from proofing copies.
Imposition is the process of arranging and adjusting the page position for multi-page published materials like magazines. This fully automated process arranges pages in proper order to create “signatures” which are large sheets of paper containing multiple pages printed on each side.
3. Cutting and folding
Similar to printing and imposition, cutting large sheets of printed paper to the right size and individual pages is also a fully automated process. After the pages are stacked and trimmed to the proper size, a machine folds them together, ready for binding.
There are different binding methods for multi-page publications. Some are bound by staples or spiral coils, while others are stitched and glued together before being bound to a hardcover case. All these methods can be and are automated.
There are plenty of other automated processes for other types of printed materials. From cutting stickers to embossing labels, the printing industry relies on automation to swiftly produce different printed materials on a large scale.
Benefits of Printing Automation
Using automation in your print production process has many benefits, including:
1. Enhance productivity
Increased productivity is one of the main benefits of automating your print production process. Printing products one by one takes too much time, not to mention the effort employees will have to expend on repetitive tasks.
As long as you check your digital and physical materials before printing, you can achieve higher accuracy and a more efficient production process.
2. Minimise errors
Imagine if printers are still using woodblocks or movable elements. There’s too much room for error, leading to books with spelling mistakes, uneven formatting or missing words. These things happen even in modern printing processes, but only to a minimal degree.
3. Maximise profits
The automation of printing workflow reduces the need for labour-intensive tasks, such as the ones we mentioned above. In addition, the reduced errors and faster turnaround time resulting from automation means your company can produce faster and serve more clients.
4. Allocate time better
With your staff free from labour-intensive, repetitive tasks, they can complete other projects faster. Employees can focus on improving other aspects of your business and give you ample time to develop your business.
Grow Your Business with Duplo International
Duplo International is a leading provider of automated printing technology, helping you create a more efficient workflow. From slitters, cutters and creasers to binding machines, we have the technology you need for your printing business.
Contact us for enquiries.