Printing is a process of reproducing text and images through the use of ink and paper. The word printing comes from the Italian words printo (to print) and giro (to giro). It is a process of creating images and texts, which can be stored in the form of books, papers, and other objects. Printed texts provide an advantage over other media, as they allow for reflection and are permanently available. They also offer a variety of advantages over other media, such as radio, television, and tape recording.
The process involves using flat or curved inked surfaces to transfer an image to a substrate. Often used as an industrial process, it uses semi-liquid or quick drying inks. For example, a sheet-fed machine can print up to 120 by 160 inches. This type of process drives down the cost of printing by using automated feed mechanisms.
Using the printing process, information can be produced on a wide variety of materials, including books, textiles, and wallpaper. Traditionally, printing has been used as a large-scale industrial process. However, the use of digital technologies and other audiovisual media has begun to challenge the status quo. Consequently, some observers have proposed that printing is becoming obsolete. Regardless of the future of printing, it will most likely continue to evolve.
The first known printing process was developed in the Orient long before European writing. During the Song Dynasty, Chinese movable type was created by Bi Sheng, who invented a system that consisted of a small block of clay that could be glued to an iron plate. It could be reassembled and used anywhere, a fact that changed the way printing was done.
Since the 18th century, printing has evolved into a number of different processes. These include intaglio, planographic, offset lithography, and flexography. Each of these processes differs in its general method of image transfer and in the materials that are used to create the image.
Currently, the primary type of printing is offset lithography, which is used to make books, magazines, and other large-scale publications. Offset lithography involves the use of a cylinder made of copper or steel, which is then chromed. Paper is fed through the cylinder and the ink is then transferred to the Printing surface of the paper.
Offset lithography is usually carried out on a press, which contains two or three cylinders. In the early days of the process, photomechanical methods were used. Before the development of electronic page making systems, printing was often performed by hand.
Similarly, intaglio is a type of printing process, which involves etching or engraving an image below the surface of a piece of paper. This method is particularly useful for high-value documents and prints. Other processes, such as screen printing, involve transferring an image to a fine mesh.
Finally, flexographic printing is a modern version of letterpress printing. Unlike the previous two, this process utilizes quick drying, semi-liquid inks. Flexographic printing is usually employed for printing on uneven surfaces or for high-volume jobs.