A Brief History of Printing

3D printing is being hailed as a revolution in the printing industry with UK retailer Maplin becoming the first place to sell them to consumers. 3D printing allows you to create three-dimensional objects and has been called the future of manufacturing. Designers have already started experimenting with 3D printing, Dutch designer Iris van Herpen has created stunning designs for Lady Gaga and Nike have released a football boot with 3D printed studs.

3d printing shapeways 500x375 A Brief History of Printing

3D machines work by printing tiny layers of plastic on top of each other which create a 3D object. The printers use an online model to print the correct size and shape individual layers. Something like a mobile phone case would typically take around 30 minutes to print using a 3D printer while a piece of complex jewellery a few hours.

makerbot 3d printing 500x375 A Brief History of Printing

The cost of 3D printers is predicted to come down in price as the technology advances and becomes more accessible to the mass market, at the moment they are still expensive and the refill materials are pricey. But with the first generation of 3D printers now available to buy commercially and a printing revolution been hailed exciting things are happening in the industry.

formlabs form1 3d printer  500x280 A Brief History of Printing

Let’s take a look back at the history of printing and where it all started:
Printing in the broadest sense of the term can be traced back to the use of round cylinder seals for rolling impressions onto clay tables in the early Mesopotamian civilization before 3000BC.

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The earliest woodblock printing used ink on carved wooden blocks, which took place in China during the Han Dynasty, flowers printed onto silk can be traced back to this period.Recorded use of block printing onto paper occurred during the T’ang Dynasty between 618 and 906. It is thought the change to paper printing is partly due to the influence of Buddhism to circulate copies of key religious texts.

Chinese block printer 500x334 A Brief History of Printing

However, the Egyptians printed onto papyrus paper much earlier. After block printing, came stencil printing then flat-bed printing presses, the first of which were used in Germany by goldsmith Johann Gutenberg in the mid-15th century. The mechanical printing device applied pressed plates to an inked surface resting on paper or cloth, transferring the image. Printing presses based on Gutenberg’s design spread rapidly throughout Europe and the rest of the world, replacing block printing and becoming a modern movable type printer. A movable printer is one that uses movable pieces of metal type and font. Early printing houses were run by ‘master printers’ who owned the shops, selected and edited manuscripts, determined the size of print run and then sold the printed products.

movabble type A Brief History of Printing

The modern litho printing method is one which uses a simple chemical process to create an image. The so called ‘positive’ part of an image is treated with a water-repelling substance whilst the ‘negative’ section is water-retaining, the ink therefore only sticks to the positive image. You can produce much more detailed print runs using litho printing techniques. A company like Printworks, who are an online printing company specialising in litho printing, is a perfect example of litho printing’s widespread use and popularity.

BW press 500x405 A Brief History of Printing

The 3D printing industry looks set for continued growth, perhaps we could all have 3D printers in our homes in the future printing out our own clothes and accessories?


Brought to you in collaboration with Printworks

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