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What Is Offset Printing Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 2355 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In recent times, offset printing press is based on a technology called lithography (which literally means, writing with stones). The image to be printed is impressed on a flat plate made of stone, ink is applied on the stone and the print appears when the stone comes in contact with printing paper. In this technology, ink would be kept away from the un-engraved areas by plate not flushing with water. Major developments of the offset technology were made by: Robert Barclay of England in 1875 by for printing on a tin, and by Ira Washington Rubel of the United States in 1903 for printing on paper. (Meggs 146)

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This was in operation on the principle that water repels ink or vice versa, thus the ink stuck only to the engraved area of the plate. The principle in modern application is basic and clear -ink and water don’t mix, and a plate (instead of a toner) carries the image. In the original lithography technology, the plate that contained the image came in direct contact with the sheet, in offset printing however; the image is transferred to a rubber blanket from the plate. It is this blanket that contacts the sheet. The image literally ‘offsets’ from the plate to the blanket, then it consequently offsets again from the blanket to the paper. Offset Lithography began to gain its popularity as a form of commercial printing in the early 1950’s. Several attempts to improve in the types of plates, inks, and paper has really strengthened the technology and thus leading to a more advanced production speed and plate quality. Currently, offset lithography is the most common printing technology that is applied in the US and the rest of the world. It is responsible for most print materials in the printing industry (Nicole 141).

In fact, offset lithography accounts for more than half of all printing by utilizing printing plates. (Helmut 130). The quality of the prints produced has continued to increase consistently, and the quantity of prints made has shown that offset lithography as an efficient printing technology for businesses, especially where bulk deliveries are required within a very short period (Helmut 354). The invention of printing in general has really impacted on the occupational structure of European and the entire world. Printers have emerged as a new class of entrepreneurs and artisans. The occupation of Proof-correcting also arose, the rise in the number of booksellers and librarians who followed naturally the flare-up in the numbers of books in the market.

The technology of offset printing in modern world

(Helmut 354) has posited that “Compared to other printing methods, offset printing is best suited for cost-effectively producing large volumes of high quality prints in an economically sound manner that requires little maintenance.” In modern times, offset presses are using computer to plate systems rather than the traditional to the computer to film work flows, this has further improved the quality of offset prints. Furthermore, offset Lithography is one of the common technologies being used to create printed matter. These include common applications such as; magazines, brochures, newspapers and even book cover.

Most modern offset presses are using computer to plate systems rather than the ancient computer to film technique (Carter 11). This has further enhanced the print quality of offset technology. Comparing this technology to other forms of printing, offset printing is best when you are considering cost-effectiveness and mass production of print materials with high quality. This makes it very economical, notwithstanding the fact that the hardware requires little maintenance (Helmut 354).

Advantages of offset printing

When comparing offset-printing to other forms of printing, the following advantages are singled out; Consistent high image quality-Offset printing produces intelligent and dirt free images that are of style as compared to letterpress printing. This is possible because, the use of the rubber blanket technique-the rubber is elastic enough to conform to the texture of the printing surface. Secondly, there is the advantage of durability-offset printers have longer printing plate life than the direct litho presses. This is enabled by the fact that there is no direct contact between the plate and the printing surface.

Thirdly, offset printers yield economies of scale, thus are low cost machines. Offset printers are the cheapest to use when intending to produce high quality and quantity commercial print matter. Another impressive feature of offset printing is that the printing surface does not have to be just paper but there are a range of surfaces onto which you can print. This surfaces include; fabric, rubber and even wood. High quality images can also be transferred leather and metal by using offset printing (Helmut 358).

When showcasing printing projects, the superseding desire is high quality. The advent of digital printing technology has revolutionized the printing industry immensely in the past few decades. However, offset printing remains the ultimate leader in image quality for display case printing projects for example, fine art prints. The reasons behind this are; an offset press plate can be easily adjusted to a higher resolution as compared to a digital printing image carrier and secondly, ink is a film while toner is particulate. The property of Ink being film gives it an advantage since it adheres more accurately to a fine line or small dot as compared to the particle nature of a toner, which denies it the accuracy when adhering to the line or dot.

Disadvantages of offset printing

Offset print works have high propensity to be affected by chemical oxidation since they are made of anodized aluminum. Also, producing plates and setting up printing press consumes a lot of time and money this is why moderate quantity printing tasks are moving to digital offset machines. When analyzing these disadvantages it is important to note the quantity of work to be printed and the duration. For example in business printing, business printing projects often must contain factors toting up to print quality. These factors include cost-this is in terms of the amount of time required to complete the task, the desired quantity, and the type of paper, color conformity or the format of the work. Offset printing requires a significantly huge upfront investment. This may be costly for the customer who will require paying thousands for books to be printed at once. Other disadvantages may include huge losses for the customer when mass production has been done and demand decreases. The losses will escalate even more when storage space is required.

Paper feeds

There are two types of paper feeds that are used in offset printing. The first type of paper feed is sheet fed-litho; “Sheet-fed” refers to the technique of feeding individual sheets of paper or other print surface into a press. The press employs lithographic (“litho” for short)-principles of lithography to apply ink to a printing plate. This is predominantly used when printing frequent magazines, letter headings, general commercials and brochures. Another type of paper feed is the web-fed litho. This is where rolls (or “webs”) of paper being fed into the printing press. Web-fed litho is more appropriate for newspapers, catalogs, newspaper inserts/ads, magazines, and books.

Web-fed presses further come in two general types: ‘Cold’ or ‘Non-Heatset’ and ‘Heatset’ web presses.

The distinction is in the way the inks used dry. In Cold web offset, the printing ink dries through absorption into the paper. On the other hand, in heatset, printing ink dries by utilizing heaters or lamps. Heatset presses can print on both coated (slick) and uncoated papers, while coldset presses are restricted to uncoated paper stock, such as newsprint. Some coldest web presses can be fitted with heat dryers, or ultraviolet lamps (for use with ultra-violet-curing inks). There is also another possibility of adding a drier in a cold-set press and making it as a semi-commercial press. Utilizing this concept, when printing newspaper, the color pages can be printed in heatset and BW pages in coldset.

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Digital printing, print on demand (POD) and short-run digital printing (SRDP)

The future of eBooks and other forms of electronic propagation may be masked into doubt. However, the one of the major developments in the book industry since 1990’s that is here to stay is digital printing and print on demand. This technology had not gained momentum since 1970’s until 1990’s when the traditional offset presses paved way for other serious alternatives. Most digital printers utilize toners. Digital printing refers to high-speed laser printing. Laser printing uses a single source of concentrated light to expose the image onto photosensitive material located on a drum or belt. Electrically charged toner is attracted to the image on the drum or belt that has an opposite charge. Finally, the toner particles are transferred to the paper and fused to it with heat and/or pressure (Thompson 421).

During the past decade, most copier manufacturers developed digital printer/copiers. These machines combine laser print engines with high-speed scanners to enable image capture in digital format instead of the electrophotographic method of analog copiers. Thus, all printing is from digital images, whether provided by the scanner or by a computer file. These machines also have copier features such as image manipulation, collating, stapling and booklet making. By the early 1990’s, the appearance of Xerox’s DocuTech printers and other electronic machines revolutionized the printing industry. Digital printing devices brought competition to offset printing but the reproduction of halftones remained inferior. This technology has continued to improve and has added in more players in the mid to late 190’s offering a variety of printing services to publishers. These particular services were: print on demand (POD) and short-run digital printing (SRDP) (Thompson 423).

Short-run digital printing (SRDP) technology is specially designed for publishers to use when publishing books that have low demand hence reduces costs on reprints on such books. .It has helped to preserve books with low demand since anciently publishers would a book would render the book out of print and would generally lose sight of it. SRDP is the use of digital technology that allows publishers to quickly and effectively produce small print runs of books that are stored in a digital warehouse. This technology has surpassed the e-book mania and is currently one of the fastest growing technologies that publishers from all academia are adopting (Thompson 426).

POD is the process of printing a document in response to particular demand from a customer. POD main essence is to fulfill the demands of a particular order. This implies that no stock is kept in a warehouse. The file could simply be kept in digital format say on a server and would only be called up if and when needed. This is what is referred to as a virtual warehouse. However, digital printing has been viewed most as SRDP than POD (Thompson 426).

Summary and conclusions

Arguably, Offset printing is a high-quality printing technique that utilizes large presses. In offset printing, an ‘inked image’ is transferred (or “offset”) from a plate first to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface” (say paper). An offset printer uses a minimum of types of 4 inks: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (CMYK). Other additional colors include; pre-mixed inks such as Pantone and ‘Spot Colors’ (Wissling 153).

An offset printer separates each color making a lithographic ‘plate’, and then it aligns the plates at the printing stage and separately prints each color in a specific order. Offset printing technology is flexible enough to allow printing to be done on a wide variety of paper textures and is a very high-quality printing technique. Setting up an offset printing process is a little complex. However, once the plates are set, multiple copies can be printed quickly and effectively. This is the main reason that offset printing becomes very cost effective when producing large quantities of print. On the contrary, producing small volumes of print may be very expensive (Meggs 11).

When properly applied both offset printing and digital printing processes should work in a complimentary manner rather than in competition. Digital printing is “part -but only part -of a profound series” (Thompson 438) that is transforming the printing industry. The advent of the digital printing has yielded fantastic solutions for many people. However, the use of computer-to-plate offset lithography (combined with respectably high quality stock and finishing) always yields the superior result in print quality. When preparing marketing materials for example, one should be aware of the appropriate printing method they want to use and their advantages vis-à-vis disadvantages. Technology has continued to improve, so has the quality of digital prints.

The advancement in technology has also enabled more and more businesses to enter the printing industry. This has increased competition and quality of services delivered. Good offset printing presses may be costly but the long-run use comes with benefits of economies of scale. This does not however mean that the important advances in other types of printing are neglected. Innovative manufacturers are even designing and producing printers that utilize both laser technology and offset printing technology. The major point reiterated here is that, the choice of a printer should be based on the nature of the work-the quality and quantity required and the urgency period.


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