The Future of Printing

We work with lots of printing presses, so I guess it’s natural that we would be interested in the history of printing. It’s even more natural that we would be interested in the future of printing.

The future of printing is a lot harder to lay out, though.

Imagine a tree with multiple branches. Each branch is one possible outcome in the future of printing. One large branch that a lot of people are swinging on is the possibility that printing will become obsolete. Here’s why:

  • alternatives to paper for reading, including tablets, Kindles, smartphones, and computers
  • increasing desire to cut down on the use of paper
  • movement away from physical newspapers, phone books, and similar high-volume print items

Another branch suggests that, as automatic color control improves, printing will involve fewer and fewer human beings, and the line between small home and office printers on the one hand and giant printing presses on the other will blur. Books, magazine, newspapers, brochures, and everything else will be printed out on demand by and for individuals who happen to want paper.

Move on to a sturdy branch heading in the other direction. Magazine, newspapers, and physical books may be on their way out, this branch proclaims, but packaging gets more and more important. This, perhaps, is the future need for printing. Cereal boxes created with digital printing may not be as glamorous as novels, but they can’t be accessed with a smartphone, either.

A branch near this one has quite a bit of fruit on it: this is the branch that belongs to 3-D printing. Currently a slow process requiring a lot of human input, 3-D printing should soon catch up with 2-D printing and provide new opportunities.

There are also still branches that hold that the desire to put IRL pen to IRL paper will win, just as the desire to file stuff has completely overcome the possibility of a paperless office. For some people, a Nook just isn’t the same as a book, at least on an emotional level. We might be willing to give up physical newspapers, which are ephemeral and sort of inconvenient, but that doesn’t mean we’ll give up books, organizers, or paper journals.

It’s too early to call. We’re looking forward to finding out, though.

In the meantime, if you work with printing presses, chances are good that you have Rexroth motion control systems in place. We service and support Rexroth components, from legacy to current units.

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