World Association of News Publishers

Inkjet applications in newspaper production

Inkjet applications in newspaper production


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In the last year, the Board of the WAN-IFRA World Printers Forum, following in-depth discussion, prioritised a series of topics for closer analysis. One of these topics is digital newspaper printing. The Board considered it to be of special importance to investigate the present and future areas of application of digital printing for newspaper publishers and printers. Therefore the focus was less on technical specifications and performance data, which in any case change as development occurs, and more on concrete, economically viable and innovative business sectors that, with the aid of digital printing in a newspaper environment, are today already of significance in practice or that could become important in the future.

In the summer of 2016, the World Printers Forum launched a new microsite on digital newspaper printing as part of the “Insights” section of the WAN-IFRA website. Digital inkjet was one of the dominant technical topics at the recent Drupa 2016 exhibition in Düsseldorf, Germany. New inkjet printing plants opened in Switzerland, France and the UK, and are planned in the USA. The new WAN-IFRA site collects all kinds of information on the subject, including articles, press releases, research reports, videos, pictures and conference presentations.

The term “digital printing” is, in fact, misleading. If printing is described as a process by which an image is transferred in an automated operation to a substrate with the aid of a printing machine, then it must inevitably be concluded that any thus-defined printing process represents a mechanical and not a digital operation. Where ink is applied to paper it will always be a mechanical process.

Operation without a printing forme

Nonetheless, the term “digital printing” has been in common use for many years. It is used to refer to all printing processes that operate without a printing forme. Whereas conventional printing processes, such as letterpress, gravure, flexo, and offset, use an unchangeable printing forme (such as a plate) to produce large numbers of identical copies, “digital printing” is not based on such a printing forme. For that reason, the appropriate term “non-impact printing” was proposed. Although this constitutes a much more accurate description, it has not yet come into widespread use.

Instead, apart from the final process of ink-to-paper transfer. The entire prepress process, generation and processing of text, graphics, images and all other page elements, as well as page design, make-up and imposition, have long been all-digital processes whichever printing process is involved.

The only fundamental distinction between the processes is the manner in which the ink is applied to the substrate. What this means is that the printing processes differ in how the paper is imaged or printed. In inkjet printing, this is a highly complex and elaborate process, as thousands of inkjet nozzles must be controlled electromechanically within fractions of a second in such as way as to ensure that the correct amount of ink is applied at the right time to the right area of the print surface in a non-contact operation.

The common term of digital printing has become the generic term for all printing processes that:

  1. Function in a non-contact fashion, and
  2. Operate without a printing forme.

Conversely, as a consequence, with digital printing, the content and form of every printed page can vary from the previous one. Therefore, in digital printing, one and the same printing press can be used without interruption to print products with page counts ranging from one to more than 1,000. It is possible also to combine any desired products having any page counts in any desired sequence in a single printing operation. Moreover, individual modifications in form and content can be carried out from one copy to the next (e.g. personalisation).

All this is possible without interrupting the printing process to exchange printing formes. These are characteristic properties of digital printing that are decisively changing the areas of application.

Susan Philip, Manfred Werfel, Brian Veseling


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2016-11-20 10:48

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