The evolution of printing solutions in the UK

The first book printed in the English language has just sold at auction for over £1 million. Printing solutions have come a long way since the book was printed 540 years ago by the UK’s first printer, William Caxton.

1700s – Printing press and lithographic printing

In the 1770’s only a small number of printers existed, using the printing press method. During this time printer John Baskerville introduced a strong black type (the Baskerville font that is still used today) and started using a smoother white paper, with wider margins.

In this period lithographic printing was also introduced for the first time. Lithography originally involved applying ink to an etching, normally made in stone, which had been covered with a repelling substance in the areas which were not etched. The etching was then transferred onto paper. The lithographic method is still widely used today, to print maps, books, newspapers and posters, although it has evolved significantly from its early origins.

1800s – Colour printing solutions

At some point in the nineteenth century, colour printing solutions were introduced (the exact dates are disputed) by a number of different printers across Europe.

1950s – Inkjet printing

Inkjet printers – where an image is created by propelling droplets of ink onto the paper, was first developed at the beginning of the 1950s. By the 1970s, inkjet printers had been manufactured by Epson, HP and Canon and were being sold around the world.

1960s – Digital and laser printing solutions

Epson claim to have developed the world’s first digital printer, launched in 1968.

Laser printers also came into existence in the late 1960s, with Xerox developing the first one in 1969. To print using lasers, a laser beam projected an image onto a rotating drum, which then printed onto the paper. The first commercial laser printer was released in 1976 by IBM – the 3800 could print 215 pages a minute at a resolution of 240 dots per inch.

1970s – Thermal printing solutions

Thermal printing – which is used today for a variety of applications such as till receipts – was first introduced in 1972. Thermal printing is a process where an image is created on thermochromic paper via the application of heat.

1980s – 3D printing

Although you might be forgiven for thinking that 3D printing is a new invention, considering the amount of hype around this method at the moment, it’s actually been around since the 1980s. There’s various different methods of 3D printing solutions, but all involve creating a 3D object through building up layers of material.

Since the 1980s, 3D printing solutions have become much more accessible, and as a result people are ‘printing’ everything from food to clothes.

2014 – Advanced printing solutions

In 2014 printing continues to evolve, our high tech printing solutions include printing with security ink, holograms and much more.