100 Years of Printing Technology [Infographic] 

Wednesday October 24, 2018


Printing has been around since 3500 B.C. with the simplest methods, like stencils and stamps. Since then, print technology has come a long way to include the printing press and now computer-based models. In just the last century, printing technology has advanced rapidly.

Modern conveniences like scanning and copying at the office have been around for some time, but today’s machines are the most sophisticated of their kind – and there’s no sign of slowing down. Check out notable moments in printing’s robust history:


1907: Screen Printing


Screen printing expands upon primitive stencil and stamp methods. This printing method uses a mesh screen, ink-blocking stencil and a squeegee to print the desired image onto a surface. Although this process is more than 100 years old, it’s still used today — most commonly in clothing printing. Perhaps even on the t-shirt you’re wearing right now!


1923: Spirit Duplicator


A spirit duplicator, also referred to as a ditto machine, would create a copy of the original with ink. These machines were popular with schools, churches and other small clubs because of their low cost. A spirit duplicator was best for small operations, since the original could only create a limited number of copies.

Prints made from a ditto machine are not durable. When exposed to UV light or sunlight, they can fade completely in a month. For this reason, print innovators began to search for more durable options after the spirit duplicator.


1951: Inkjet Printing


Inkjet printing was the first computer-based printer of its type. The machine recreates a digital image by propelling droplets of ink onto a paper or surface. These printers range from smaller, inexpensive at-home models to large professional machines. Inkjet printers are the most commonly used type of printer today.


1958: First Commercial Photocopier Available


While photocopying was invented in 1938, it was not readily available until about 20 years later. Most photocopiers use a technology called xerography. This machine simplified processes for offices, schools and government sectors, and has made an appearance in nearly every office since.


1968: Dot Matrix Printer


A dot matrix printer uses a print head that strikes an ink-soaked ribbon on the paper. This process is similar to a typewriter, which were still in use at the time of the dot matrix printer’s popularity – since the personal computer was not popularized until 1975. However, with a dot matrix, each letter is drawn out, allowing for varying fonts.


1969: Laser Printer


The laser printer is the next most popular computer-based printer. This printer prints by passing a laser beam over a drum that will release ink. It’s best for printing text-heavy documents.


1984: 3D Printing


This process is older than you may have thought. 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, can make three-dimensional solid objects and has been around for 34 years. In the early stages, 3D printers were very expensive and not very accessible. 


1993: Digital Press


The digital press allows professional printers to take small-scale jobs and print them with large-format, high-volume laser or inkjet printers. It revolutionized the book printing industry. Now, printers were able to choose short-run, personalized, high-quality prints straight from a desktop.


2011: First 3D Printer Release Under $10k


As 3D printers became more accessible to researchers and schools, it allowed for additional advancement. Since its inception, 3D printers have printed prosthetics, cars and even transplant organs.

All of these printing developments have paved the way for more innovation to come. What started with stencils and stamps has turned into printable organs – and we can only look forward to continued advancements and innovation.


To learn more about printing and get friendly, unbiased advice, visit the local experts at a Cartridge World near you.