One Big Happy Family

We’ve all seen the commentary proclaiming the death of print. For those of us in the graphic arts industry, we know that’s far from the truth. However, we also admit that things are changing. It’s not the same industry as it was 50 years ago, or even five years or one year ago.

We’ve seen an influx of new technology and processes. We’ve witnessed how some of the new digital printing equipment has had a direct impact on the types of jobs that are run on traditional offset devices. We’ve seen how inkjet technology has expanded into nearly every aspect of printing—from document printing, labels, and packaging to decorative, functional, and 3D printing.

We can’t argue with the benefits of production inkjet printing. According to a blog written late last year, Jim Hamilton, Group Director at InfoTrends stated, “The true value of high-volume production digital printing is its ability to leverage factors such as process automation, just-in-time manufacturing, and personalization. There may also be environmental benefits such as less waste and greener processes.”

But then, why are we also seeing a movement emphasizing the craft of letterpress printing?

Because each printing process offers something unique.

Digital proclaims it’s replacing traditional printing processes, but there has been no complete conversion to the newer platforms. Yes, digital has captured pages. There’s no arguing about that. But some jobs are still better suited for a more traditional printing process—whether it’s offset or screen or something else entirely.

In talking about the photography and photo book market, InfoTrends’ Associate Director David Hauter said, “InfoTrends believes that electronic and printed output will be able to co-exist peacefully for several years, and that the availability of electronic versions of products like photo books may bolster sales of printed copies when marketed effectively.”

I think this can be reflected across the industry at large, and we will see more and more companies installing a mix of equipment—from offset presses and wide-format inkjet to high-speed digital and production inkjet presses.

How will 3D or functional printing fit into the mix? Why don’t we let them pull up a chair at our industry table and get to know them a bit more so we can find out exactly how they fit into our extended print family? We might be surprised at what we discover.