The process of printing has evolved substantially over time. What was inconceivable a few decades ago has become reality. Whether it’s home computer printers or large-scale printers for commercial use, there are more options than ever before.
Here are three of the latest printing technologies and the impact they can have on the present and future.
1. Laser printing
While traditional ink-jet printers have been popular for years, laser printers have steadily caught on with more and more consumers. They rely on the same basic concept as photocopiers and page printers, but are much faster and achieve considerably higher resolution.
The reason for the improved image quality is that the patterns of dots produced have a more precise shape than those produced by ink-jet printers.
You also don’t have to deal with the smearing that often happens with older printers. Since the majority of laser printers are capable of printing at least 600 dots per inch, you get great results at a fraction of the time of ink jets.
Although they tend to come with a somewhat costly price tag, the results are typically well worth it, especially if you’re printing at a high volume. To maximize the quality even more, routinely updating printer drivers is a good idea.
2. Inkless printing
A company called ZINK Imaging has taken printing one step further and created a concept that’s similar to the old-school Polaroids. They placed an emphasis on portability and designed a series of products that require no ink to print.
By utilizing a particular type of photo paper combined with heat, you can quickly print out a high-definition photo that looks professional. The paper contains dye crystals that are clear at normal temperatures, but change when heat is applied. This can be likened to thermal printers that transfer color to paper, but are more advanced.
Rather than dealing with bulky printers that have to remain stationary, inkless printers are small enough to fit into your hand. Consequently, you can bring them along when you’re on the go and immediately print out a physical picture.
An added benefit is that you don’t have to purchase more ink constantly, which can add up over time. The only real cost is the specialized photo paper, which runs around 20 to 25 cents a sheet. However, if the technology goes more mainstream, that cost could potentially drop.
3. 3D printing
This type of printing technology may seem a bit like science fiction, but has become a reality. Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing utilizes computer-aided design and a laser or extruder to create an object in three dimensions.
An article by Forbes referenced a specific example in which an engineer on a container ship could produce any parts on the ship that need replacement during a voyage across the Pacific Ocean. If an important part of the ship was damaged, another part could be created on deck within 12 to 24 hours via 3D printing.
The article also mentions that this technology can have other uses, like replicating human organs such as lungs or a kidney within a few days or weeks. This could obviously have a profound impact on the medical field and potentially save the lives of many people.
Recently, late-night host Jay Leno has reportedly used it to create custom parts for his cars that are hard to find. While this technology is only in its infant stages, it could become a big business in the near future.