Printing industries are increasingly adopting digital technologies to complement or replace analog ones. The terms digital and analog (or analogue) designate both types of signals for representing data and methods of print reproduction. Analog signals and computers rely on discontinuous patterned transmissions of discrete amounts of electricity of light to communicate data.
Some of the earliest electric computers were analog.Analog printing methods reproduce images with like images. Screen printing, for instance, is an analog print method that employs film positives and negative stencils which resemble the original image to create prints. Similarly, lithography uses analogous images on plates to transfer ink to print substrates. Flexography, etching, rotogravure and other analog print methods employ other forms of analogous image transfer. All of these methods reproduce images from a master image. Unlike these analog printing technologies which use stencils or plates containing full sized images, digital printing approaches assemble each image printed from a complex of numbers and mathematical formulas. They configure images from a matrix of dots or pixels. These use digitally controlled deposition of ink, toner or exposure to electromagnetic energy such as light to reproduce images.Market forces and the desire for digital printing’s advantages are driving it’s development and adoption. Print purchasers want to eliminate the risks and expenses of maintaining inventory. Batch printing and mass production are giving way for some market applications to shorter print runs and mass customisation. While analog print methods best address the needs of mass production and high quality printing, digital printing can best serve demands for variable information printing, personalisation, customisation, quick response, just-in-time delivery, and short print runs. Printers are employing both digital and analog print methods to satisfy their customers needs. They can perform complementary functions, each doing what it does best.ADVANTAGES OF DIGITAL PRINTING
- Digital printing requires minimal press set-up and has multicolour registration built-in to its system. This eliminates many of the front-end time consuming processes and permits quick response and just-in time print delivery.
- Digital processes can vary every print “on-the-fly” i.e. while production printing, providing variable data, personalisation, and customisation.
- Most digital printing technologies are non-contact printing which permits printing of substrates without touching or disturbing them. This eliminates image distortion encountered in some analog processes such as screen printing. It also does not require as aggressive substrate hold down methods which can distort or damage some substrates such as fabrics.
- Digital technologies can print proofing; sample and short runs more cost effectively than analog methods. Digital colour printing processes offer a range of colour processes including 3 colour process (CYM), 4 colour process (CYMK), 5,6, 7 & 8 extended gamut colour options in addition to some spot colours. These match growing market demand for full colour.
- Most digital print processing requires less or no colour overlap or trapping.
- Digital printing does not use film masters, stencils, screens or plates. It requires much less space for archiving text and images than analog printing methods require.
- Generally, digital printing uses less hazardous chemicals, produces less waste and results in less negative environmental impact than analog technologies.
- Digital printing is employing sophisticated colour matching and calibration technology to produce accurate process colour matching.
- Digital web printers can print images limited only by the width of fabric and the length of the bolt or roll. They can print panoramas and are not restricted to repeat patterns.
- Digital files are usually easier and quicker to edit and modify than analog photographic images.
- Designers, artists, photographers, architects, and draftspeople are increasingly creating and reproducing their work digitally. Digital processing has replaced optical and manual methods for typesetting and page composition. Telecommunication has largely converted to digital processing. One can use the same digital files for electronic media, such as Internet, CD-ROM, Video and TV, print media and multimedia.
- One can readily convert analog images and text to digital with scanning and optical character reading (OCR) software.
DISADVANTAGES OF DIGITAL PRINTING
- Digital files are easy to transport and communicate. One can send a digital file to any digital printer on the planet within seconds. This permits distribution of design to many locations for quick response printing. Industries are adopting digitally generated and communicated art and print copy.
- Most digital technologies have slower throughput as compared with comparable analog printing.
- Digital printing will often cost more per copy than analog printing for longer print runs.
- It often requires specially prepared and coated substrates.
- Most digital printing technologies deposit very thin ink or toner layers. These limits necessitate layering for applications requiring thicker deposits, resulting in slower operation.
- Digital inks and toners are limited in capacity and carry high price tags.
- Most digital devices are printing transparent chemistry which limits their use for white or light substrates.
- Some processes currently have difficulty matching colour consistently.
- This is new technology which requires investment for training as well as equipment.
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