Innovation has taken us from our prehistoric caves to the moon. It has taken the written word from drawings on walls to bits and bytes streaming down virtual highways at high speeds. It has changed how we capture images: from paint and canvas to digital pictures that can be viewed instantly and altered electronically. It moves printing technology from the old dot matrix printers to high-speed, high-quality digital printers capable of accommodating any size paper.
Technology today, a result of innovation supported by research, development and funding, moves forward at exponential rates in part thanks to the innovative ways users of that technology incorporate it into their environment. A perfect point in case is the wide format printer and the innovative ways it is being used by various industries today.
Originally designed as monochrome analog machines for the rendering of architectural drawings, wide format printers have become a tool with few limitations when applied to the imagination and creativity of users. From humble beginnings, they are now being used in the automotive, sign and graphics industries, by architects, engineers, fashion designers, marketing agencies, government departments and educational institutions.
They are being used to print graphics, posters, spreadsheets, catalogues, full renditions of buildings, life-size pictures of furniture or models; whatever the imagination can contemplate, in the size restrictions of wide format printing, these printers can do.
Cars today are infinitely more advanced than they were when they were first introduced. Back then they were relatively simple. They were significantly more difficult to drive but their construction was not particularly complex. Today, however, although cars are much simpler to drive, with everything that enables the car to operate hidden from the driver, they are very complex, with thousands of parts.
The sheer size of the spreadsheets that contain a listing of every part, and details about each part used in today's cars, is phenomenal. Before making innovative use of wide format printers throughout their operations, companies such as DaimlerChrysler, Nissan and Toyota used to print their spreadsheets onto A4 pages and then glue them together to create legible catalogues. Now, they simply print the spreadsheets using wide format printers, which not only allows them to print long sheets of paper, but also allows them to make use of colour coding that results in spreadsheets that are far more user friendly than before.
Designers today use wide format printers and copiers to create life-size prints of their art, or to make perfect copies of large hand drawings. Fashion designers traditionally design their work by hand drawing or painting. When they use technology to generate their creations, which they increasingly do, the results are usually larger than normal A4 print sizes.
Distributing this work has become easier with wide format printers and copiers as there is no longer a need to shrink images so that they can be duplicated or printed; and quality and detail is not lost due to the reduction in size. Thanks to the advancements in colour printing technologies, and the application of these to the wide format printing market, the quality that designers are able to achieve when printing or copying their work is outstanding. The result is an industry producing life-size designs of spectacular quality.
Wide format printers have been deployed innovatively to print on material, banners and shades, thanks to advancements in the solvent market. Rather than using specialised printers capable of silk screening, companies now use wide format printers with special solvent inks to print on various materials from banner to cloth and polyester. Using these printers, companies are finding that not only are their wide format printing requirements being more easily met, but that their creations have greater longevity.
However, possibly one of the most innovative uses of wide format printing at the moment is in the textile industry where the printing of material through die sublimation is being done with the help of wide format printers. The ink used by the wide format machines in this industry bonds with certain types of material. Therefore, the manufacturers print the material pattern that has been created onto paper, which is then heated to sublimate the image off the paper and into the material.
Putting wide format printers to innovative uses encourages vendors to improve their products, make them user friendly and give them more capabilities that users can leverage still further. It also influences the consumables market, forcing the creation of inks that can be used for sublimation or printing on unusual surfaces. The human imagination is infinite, and so the cycle of innovation continues.
Bytes Document Solutions is the authorised distributor of Xerox products and solutions in sub-Saharan Africa.