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The history of print

Printing has been around centuries, although the technology has dramatically changed in that time. From woodblock printing which started in 200AD, to the creation of Lithography in 1796.

We have seen other developments of Movable Type, Etching, Rotary Press and Hectograph all of which made a mark on the print footprint, but all have now been replaced.

The innovations in the last century have been somewhat astonishing, and we will now look back at the last 100 years of the print industry...

Screen Printing

This form of technology first appeared in a form in China back in 960AD. However, in 1910 - we saw the introduction of printers which were experimenting with photo-reactive chemicals, which changed the face of screen printing.

This technology involved a blade or sponge moving across a screen, which was a piece of mesh stretched over a frame, and this would fill open areas with ink. Stencils prevented ink from reaching certain places.

Screen Duplicator

In 1923, a spirit duplicator (known as a Banda machine in the UK) was a method of printing that was created by Wilhelm Ritzerfeld and was used throughout the 20th century. The term comes from the alcohols which were a major component of solvents used as inks in the machine.

Dot Matrix Printing

In 1925 a German inventor by the name of Rudolf Hell invented an apparatus called the Hellschreiber, an early forerunner to impact dot matrix printers and faxes. Hell received a patent for the Hellschreiber in 1929.


Xerography, which was also known as electrophotography in a dry photocopying technique. It was a fundamental technique invented by Hungarian physicist Pál Selény. The patent for this technology was awarded in the US on October 6th 1942.

Inkjet Printing

The original concept of inkjet printing started in 1951, with the first commercial inkjet printer being developed by Siemens. Even though it was introduced in 1951, it wasn't until the 1970's until printers could reproduce digital images generated by computers.

Dye Sublimation

In 1957 Noel de Plasse invented dye-sublimation printing. Sublimation is the basis of transfer printing or 'dry printing', in the late 1960's and early 70's transfers of sublimation dyes were made using ribbons.

Laser Printing

Laser printing was invented by a Xerox product developer, Gary Starkweather in 1969 who had the idea of using a laser beam to draw an image of what was to be copied directly onto the copier drum.

Thermal Printing

In 1972, thermal printing was developed, a process which produces a printed image by selectively heating coated thermometric paper. The paper passes over the thermal print head, which turns the coating black in the heated area, therefore producing an image.

3D Printing

Hideo Kodama, Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute invented two additive methods for producing 3D plastic models in 1981.

Also known as additive manufacturing, the process creates a three dimensional object in which layers of material are formed under computer control to create an object.

Digital Printing

Digital printing is a method of printing from a digital based image, directly to a variety of media. It usually refers to professional printing, where small run jobs from desktop publishing and other sources are printed using high volume inkjet printers.


This is a method for producing murals digitally on paper, canvas, glass or tiles. This was invented in 1998 by German muralist Rainer Maria Latzke, it uses CAM and digital printing methods to create murals.


Xerox re-launched ConnectKey in 2017, a revolution in office technology that has moved with the times. The technology adds network security, flexibility to print from SMART devices and enables you to print on any printer. For more information on ConnectKey click here.


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