- History, processes, applications and future -
According to today's guidelines, the term machine is defined by drives such as motors or cylinders. If we break free from this definition, then printing machines were created as early as the middle of the 15th century. Johannes Gutenberg revolutionized the creation of books through the use of movable metal letters and numbers that were printed using printing presses. These were operated manually by turning a spindle. The pressure was generated via the spindle and the attached pressure plates.
Such screw presses were already known from viticulture. These were more often converted for letterpress printing.
With the invention of the first printing machines, the process of writing books by hand, as we know it from medieval period films, was history. Primarily the monks copied the Bible by hand.
The areas of application of the printing machines are very diverse. This includes newspaper printing machines, letterpress printing machines or office machines.
The various areas of application of printing machines naturally have a long history. We will try to shed light on their range and show the most diverse areas of application.
As we have already heard, the development of printing machines began in the Middle Ages. Mechanically working printing machines, which were still based on the panel construction, had been around since the beginning of the 19th century. In the middle of the 19th century, the first rotary printing machine was developed in which the document to be printed ran between 2 rotating rollers. Manual crank drives have been replaced by electric motors as development has continued.
There are printing machines for different processes. In terms of technology, we distinguish these machines as follows:
- Plates printing machines (crucible printing presses), surface against surface is pressed
- Cylinder printing machines, a cylinder is pressed while rotating over a surface
- Rotary printing machines, two rotating cylinders are pressed against each other
The following list shows a refinement of the structure of printing machines:
- Printing works specializing in the printing of certain formats by linking special machine types
- Book printing machines, printing pages and double pages with the aim of joining the book using a bookbinding machine
- Letterpress machines are characterized by the fact that the printing elements are represented by surveys on the printing templates
- Photogravure printing machines are characterized by the fact that the printing elements are represented by recesses on the printing templates
- Flatbed printing machines are characterized by the fact that the printing and non-printing areas are almost in one plane. The printing plates are prepared in such a way that the printing ink (fatty substance) is either accepted or repelled. With the solvent water, the acceptance and the repulsion on the printing plates happens in reverse to the printing ink. This process is also known as chemical printing.
- Offset printing machines are characterized by the fact that writing and images are copied onto the printing forms. The printing is then carried out indirectly via rubberized rollers onto the medium to be printed, e.g. paper. The printing units are staggered depending on the number of colors required, usually from one to twelve units.
- Web offset printing machines are characterized by the fact that feeding and printing are carried out exclusively using rollers (no printing plates). The print template is transferred indirectly to the part to be printed. A typical application for web offset printing machines is newspaper printing.
- Rotary printing machines are characterized by the fact that the pressure cylinder and the counterpressure cylinder roll in opposite directions to each other. The medium to be printed can be fed in via sheets or rolls.
- Screen printing machines are characterized by the fact that the printing ink is pressed through a fine-meshed screen made of wire, textile or plastic. Print or image-free areas are covered on the screen using a template.
- Digital printing machines are machines that can be supplied with a print job directly from a computer or from a camera. Examples of this are the classic laser printer or inkjet printer. Digital printing machines are i.a. used as office or shipping machines. Papers, forms, stickers (labels) or signs are printed. In technical offices, digital printing machines are used as plotters for large formats.
- Flexographic printing machines are machines that belong to the category of letterpress machines and web-fed rotary machines. The machines work with pressure plates made of rubber or elastic plastic. The printing templates are transferred to the printing plates by engraving, washing out or copying. The use is diverse. The colors are solvent-based.
- Printing machines, suitable for printing individual parts or small quantities. Printing machines are also often presses in the most varied of forms such as hand presses, toggle presses, vertical presses, cylinder presses and many more.
- Repromachines are used to reproduce originals such as copier
This list does not claim to be complete.
Furthermore, an extensive range of accessories and tools as independent categories of the printing machines should not be missing. The accessories and tools include, for example:
- Pre-press, such as luminous exposures, developing machines, contact devices, scanners, typesetting machines, proofing devices
- Post press, such as binding machines, folding units, folding machines, foil wrapping machines, stitchers, gluing and laminating machines
- Handling machines such as vibrating tables, air jet tables, pile lifters, pile turners, gathering machines
- Sheet feeders
- Ink containers and inking units
- Drying systems
- Pressure and plate cylinders
- Transport rollers
We also follow this division of the printing machines in terms of their functions when structuring the categories on our platform tramao.de.
Automation is also finding its way into modern printing machines. The automation spans i.a. the following important areas:
- Automatic removal and feeding of sheets and rolls (cylinders)
- Automatic change of inking units and ink containers
- Process monitoring
- Removal and feeding of sheets, paper rolls or other parts to be printed
- Linking with other machines using conveyor belts and handling units or using robots
- Packaging including labeling
- Integration of security zones
What about the future of printing presses?
From goals such as the paperless office, most companies are still a long way off. On the contrary, more is being printed than is absolutely necessary.
Week after week, advertising ends up unread in the waste paper, advertising that hits many households twice or three times.
Print media such as newspapers, journals and magazines are suffering from declining circulation. Income from advertising is also falling. However, this only affects the printing press manufacturers to a limited extent, because more separate advertising is printed on the other side.
The importance of sustainability will also increase in the printing industry. Recycling will become more important in the future. For example, waste paper is mixed with fresh paper. There are already print products that are made from 100% recycled paper.
Ultimately, the only option left for the manufacturers of printing machines is to adapt their products to the growing demands of the market. This includes e.g. the fact that article packaging is becoming increasingly important for marketing reasons. The packaging, regardless of whether it is made of paper, cardboard, plastic or film, is in most cases printed.
This should secure the future of printing machines in many areas.
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