Letterpress Printing vs Offset Printing, a history lesson in efficiency
Letterpress printing was the normal form of printing text from its invention by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century until the 19th century and remained in wide use for books and other uses until the second half of the 20th century. Letterpress printing is the process of direct repeated impression of an inked raised surface against many sheets of paper most commonly found on rolls. Metal engravings or wood could be used to make the impressions.
Though Gutenberg was revolutionary in his design, it soon became outdated, as being done by hand was too tedious and long winded. With the industrial revolution through steam power, hydro-power and later with the technological revolution with computing and electronics, doing the job by hand became obsolete.
In 1865, William Bullock invented the Bullock Press, which was the first press to be fed by a continuous roll of paper. The use of the roll paper was important because it was the first next step in efficiency and production. This roll design allowed the paper to be printed on both sides simultaneously.
Offset printing is a commonly used printing technique in which the inked image is transferred (or "offset") from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. When used in combination with the lithographic process, which is based on the repulsion of oil and water, the offset technique employs a flat (planographic) image carrier on which the image to be printed obtains ink from ink rollers, while the non-printing area attracts a water-based film (called "fountain solution"), keeping the non-printing areas ink-free. The modern "web" process feeds a large reel of paper through a large press machine in several parts, typically for several meters, which then prints continuously as the paper is fed through.
Development of the offset press came in two versions: in 1875 by Robert Barclay of England for printing on tin, and in 1904 by Ira Washington Rubel of the United States for printing on paper.
Efficiency and proficiency in printing techniques has been apparent as the cost of doing business becomes ever so discretionary. The faster and better the job produced equates to more profit, thus the printing technology will always evolve.
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