Change and continuity

The technology that underpins the printing industry is constantly evolving and so it is inevitable that this website should also change to keep up. I began originally by covering the commercial printing industry under the banner ‘Technology for the graphic arts’ and then expanded that to write also about industrial printing with the title ‘Graphics to industrial printing’. But I want to start off the new year with a new title – Printing and Manufacturing Journal – which better reflects just how widespread printing is now becoming.

Print technology has allowed many of the interior panels and surrounds of this Smart Car to be customised.

Modern printing has moved from being a skilled craft to a manufacturing process. In some cases, elements of printing, such as applying labels, have been incorporated into manufacturing lines. And increasingly printing technology is also used in production for other forms of manufacturing, from floorboards to car parts. Technologies that are familiar to graphics printers, such as screen printing and inkjet, are now also widely used to mass produce items from tee shirts to switch panels. And the reverse is also true as other industrial technologies such as robotics have been incorporated into printing lines.

Roland’s VS300iS can print to membrane switches such as this without cracking.

This also applies to 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing. Many digital print vendors have developed 3D printing solutions, often reusing technology from their existing print systems. There are several cases where printer vendors have used 3D printing as part of the manufacturing process for their graphics printers. 

All of this fits in with the basic premise behind this website – that printing and the wider world of manufacturing are inextricably linked. I believe that this will become more obvious as many companies start to rethink their supply lines and move to a more distributed supply model with multiple, smaller manufacturing hubs. This is partly prompted by the pandemic, which has brought home the weaknesses in globalisation. But it is also in part due to the other crisis that we face – the undeniable change in the world’s climate system, which is forcing us to think about transport and pollution, and about waste and the materials we work with.

Protolabs offers metal production manufacturing as part of its 3D printing services.

For the most part I’m simply following where the technology is leading me, which is mainly around inkjet, and particularly the new applications that are opening up in areas such as corrugated and flexible film packaging, as well as the continuing development of interior decor and textile printing. At the same time, additive manufacturing is continuing to develop and has become an accepted part of the prototyping process and is increasingly being used for parts manufacturing. In many ways, this follows the same pattern that many of us have already seen with digital printing – starting with very short run production but with the numbers gradually ramping up, prompting an increasing reliance on workflow and data management. 

In practical terms, there will be very little difference in the subjects covered. I will continue to write about all the things that interest me, namely all forms of printing technology, and in particular inkjet, as well as the associated materials and software, and the business issues behind these. The change in title is really more to do with putting these things in context.


…with a little help from my friends

If you value independent journalism then please consider making a donation to help support Printing and Manufacturing Journal. There’s no advertising or other income attached to this site as my aim is to provide impartial and in-depth information to all readers. However, it takes time to carry out interviews and check facts so if this site is of interest to you then please support my work. You can find more information about me here.


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