Has inkjet printing made its mark?

The most traditional method of printing is lithography. In a nutshell, lithographic printing works by having the print image burned onto a plate, which is then transferred (also known as offset) from the plate to a rubber blanket, after which it is printed onto the object’s surface. A more common method of printing is digital, a more straightforward process, in which after being prepared, the designed file is simply sent to a printing device for output.

One type of digital printing is inkjet printing. Inkjet printing creates a digital image by dropping spots of ink onto paper; this printing is ideal for photos and image-heavy documents. An inkjet printer may typically produce copy with a resolution of at least 300 dots per inch (dpi), but some models today are now printing full-colour hard copies at 600 dpi or more. The main advantage of inkjet printers is that most of them are inexpensive while also being lightweight and easy to transport – making them popular for domestic use. However, they are not a popular option for printing books or any professional collateral.

While this type of technology was initially developed in the 1950s, some preconceptions about its quality persist. These conceptions come from the fact that inkjet ink is water-based, so prints are susceptible to water damage and fading. They may also produce grey, fuzzy text if printing on plain office paper. However, are these conceptions now becoming a thing of the past?

A recent article from IMI Europe claims that ‘[inkjet] is growing and will be used in promising markets with excellent growth. Now we are printing onto new surfaces, with new ink formulations, there is more pressure to move away from volatile solvents to water-based formulations’– which should solve the issues around water damage.

As technology has improved, a wider variety of substrates that can be printed on have become available. These stop ink from soaking into the paper which has prevented its use on coated paper that isn’t specifically treated for digital printing. This quality, available from mainstream manufacturers including Canon, Fujifilm and Screen, now matches or exceeds what is possible with lithography.

Nanographyuses inkjet heads to lay to ink,and bridges the critical profitability gap between offset and digital printing by enabling printers to cost-effectively produce short-to-medium run length. So despite inkjet printers being most commonly used domestically and being perceived as unsuitable for printing in large quantities, they are now becoming a disruptive technology.

Further, last month Fujifilm announced that its highly regarded third generation B2 inkjet press has been awarded Fogra certification for contract proofing, including FOGRA51 and FOGRA52 accreditation for premium coated and uncoated wood-free substrates, respectively. In Fujifilm’s advanced print technology centre in Brussels, another exhaustive testing process assessed and approved the Jet Press for rub resistance, PDF/X conformance, colour accuracy and colourimetric tone value transfer. This accreditation would make this inkjet press both the world’s fastest contract proofing device and the world’s only production press certified for contract proofing. This should destroy any previous preconceptions about the quality that can be produced.

What do you think of using inkjet printers for printing your books?