The printing industry has greatly evolved over the past 20 years and there are a vast number of printing methods and technologies commonly used in the industry. While some older methods have become obsolete, it’s important to at least have a base level of knowledge about the different options available.
The six most common printing processes and printers are:
- Wide-format inkjet printers
- Digital printers
- Flexo printer (also known as flexographic printer)
- Offset printer
- Screen printer
- Desktop inkjet printer
Wide-Format Inkjet Printers
Wide-format printers, also known as large format printers, are printers that have the ability to print on 18” to 100” rolls. Printers that can print on anything larger than 100” wide are referred to as Grand or Super Wide printers. Wide-format printers are generally categorized by the type of transfer process that they use for ink. These transfer processes include aqueous, solvent, UV, pen or plotter, and dye sublimation. By and large, wide-format printers are much more cost-effective than other printing methods such as screen printing for most low quantity (short-run) printing jobs. This of course depends on the type of print medium (substrate), print size, and run length. It’s important to note that our inkjet printable magnet sheets can be used with dye and pigment-based wide-format inkjet printers.
Modern day technology contributes to a constantly growing number of applications for wide-format printers. Here are some of the most popular wide-format print applications:
- Vehicle wraps & graphics
- Floor graphics
- Presentation graphics
- Indoor wall graphics
- Backlit signage
- Indoor wall graphics
- Window displays
- Trade show graphics
- Architectural drawings
- Construction plans
Digital printing simple refers to the method of printing from a digital-based image onto a variety of mediums. It’s usually used to describe small-run jobs from desktop publishing and other digital sources where inkjet and laser printers are used in large-format and high volume capacities. Digital printing has traditionally had a higher cost per page than traditional offset printing methods but ever-increasing capabilities and lower labor costs are changing this making digital printing just as cost effective as other printing methods for large or small runs. There are much lower labor costs involved with digital printing because there is no need to repeatedly change printing plates. This also means that turnaround times are faster. The only downside to digital printing is that it can sometime result in fine-detail loss.
Some of the most popular digital printing applications include:
- Desktop publishing (common home and office printers)
- Variable data printing
- Architectural design
- Photo printing
- Fine art printing
- On-demand printing (personalization)
- Advertisement printing
Flexo (full name is flexography) printing, is a modern day iteration of the letterpress which can be used on nearly any substrate (medium). It is very commonly used for printing on non-porous substrates such as food packaging, but can also be used for printing on standard paper. Originally, offset printers were used for labels and other materials but advances in technology have made flexo printing a mainstay in the printing industry since about 1990. Use our printable magnetic sheeting with your flexo printing press or offset printing press to create magnetized direct mail, business cards, calendars, and more.
Common applications for flexography printing include:
- Packaging printing – Flexo printers can print on plastic, foil, acetate film, brown paper, and more. This includes corrugated cardboard boxes, flexible packaging and shopping bags, milk and beverage cartons, disposable cups and containers, and more.
- Wallpaper printing
- Self-adhesive labels
- Newspaper printing
Offset printing describes a printing process in which the image is offset (transferred) from a metal plate to a rubber blanket and then to the printing media. Web-fed and sheet-fed offset printers are the two most common types of offset printers. Advantages of using offset printers over other types of printers include high image quality, long plate life leading to lower labor costs, lower overall costs (offset printing is the cheapest method of printing high quality images at commercial scale), and more precision due to granular control of ink amounts. Some disadvantages include a slightly inferior image quality in comparison to rotogravure printers, printing in unwanted areas due to sensitive aluminum plates, and time and cost getting a quality plate and press setup. The latter is one of the reasons that small-run printing companies now mostly use digital offset machines.
Offset lithography is the primary printing technology used in the U.S. today accounting for over half of all printers that use printing plates. Offset printers are used in the following capacities:
- Newspaper printing
- Book printing
- Legal form and document printing
- Direct marketing materials printing including flyers, brochures, and public relations material (create magnetized direct marketing materials with our printable magnetic sheets for offset printing presses)
One of the oldest methods of printing, screen printing has been around more than 2000 years. The process includes the passing of ink or other printing mediums through a mesh screen. The mesh screen is stretched over a frame that has a stencil applied. This video gives a detailed explanation of how screen printing works if you’re interested in checking it out.
With its versatility, screen printing has a large number of applications including:
- Balloons printing
- Textile fabric printing
- Sign and display printing
- Product label printing
- Clothing printing
- Decal printing
- Circuit board printing
- Medical device printing
Desktop Inkjet Printers
Inkjet printers are by far the most common type of printer in the world with a large variety of types including expensive professional machines and inexpensive consumer models. An inkjet printer works by spraying ink droplets onto paper from a recreated digital image.
These household printers have a number of applications including:
- Photo printing
- Document printing
- Magnetized creations with our laser and inkjet printable magnet sheets!
Professional inkjet printers are commonly used for:
- Billboard printing
- Truck side printing
- Truck curtain printing
- Building graphics printing
- Building banners printing
- POS (point of sale) displays printing
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