August 22, 2006

An Overview of Offset Printing

Offset printing is the most common printing technology in use by commercial print shops. Offset printing involves transferring the ink from the plate roller to an intermediate (or offset) roller, which is typically made of rubber, before applying it to the print media. Other types of printing contact the printing media directly with the plate roller. Offset printing has several distinct advantages over other printing methods.

Offset printing offers a number of improvements to older printing methods. First, it is possible with offset printing to print on a number of different types of media, not just paper. Since offset printing uses a flexible rubber roller, images can be transferred to media such as cloth, fur, and other nonstandard printing materials. Additionally, offset printing typically creates higher quality documents because the rubber roller conforms to the print media, whereas the inflexible rollers in older printing techniques would sometimes blur letters if the media was not fed precisely. The printing plate in offset printing typically lasts longer since the plate is only contacted by the rubber offset roller and not the abrasive print media which can wear down the plate with prolonged contact.

The first offset printing machine was created in England in the late nineteenth century, but was only created for printing on metal and was not considered to be a replacement for stone roller printing. The full potential of offset printing was not recognized until the early twentieth century when American printer Ira Washington Rubel noticed that documents printed by offset printing were of higher quality than other documents. Since then, offset printing has come to dominate the commercial printing landscape.

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