The history of reprographics

You may have seen that at Contact Originators, we are celebrating our landmark 30th anniversary. An enormous achievement by any measure, as it now means three decades of providing specialist reprographics excellence to our customers in the packaging sector.

Naturally, as the market shifts in response to changing consumer needs, the reprographics industry has to flex and adapt alongside it. A common misconception in print is that reprographics, or origination support, is simply about translating a design into an accurate physically printed product. However, for printers and converters today, reprographics goes far beyond this.

Better reprographics, with a partner like Contact Originators, can boost business operations in a number of important ways, including:

  • Speed to market
  • Print quality and accuracy
  • Conservation of resources
  • Print sustainability
  • Cost control
  • Workflow efficiency

…however, what does the history of repro look like?

Reprographics is a portmanteau of reproduction and graphics. At the core, it is the science of turning an individual design into something that can be reproduced or replicated at scale, using electrical or mechanical means. Naturally, packaging that is produced in extremely high volumes, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of print reprographics.

The origin of reprographics

The reprographics sector is continuing to flourish, but the technology seen today is worlds apart from the industry’s roots. The origin of origination can be traced back to the introduction of flexographic printing. First patented in the 1890s, much earlier than many first think, the technology was a concept with great promise, but fraught with issues of quality and consistency. Over time these problems were solved, and by the mid 20th century, flexography had become a dominant form of commercial printing.

While the principles of flexography have remained the same, the technology itself has been shaped and moulded over more than 100 years and to this day remains one of the most popular methods of mid- to long-run print. With the introduction of CMYK four-colour processing appearing just a few years later, the demand for colour precision grew.

For many years, reprographics and colour management were entirely manual processes. Colour charts, sample swatches and colour standards given to printers by brands would be used to monitor colour output for precision and consistency, making the process extremely time and resource intensive.

One of the biggest challenges in precision was that colour matching and ink profiling relied on the human eye and as a result, was not standard or impartial. Colour perception can vary from one individual to another, which can easily create discrepancies over mid to long print runs or repeat jobs, which could then require numerous operatives to carry out.

Through the years, new print methods arose. Technologies in areas such as inline press equipment and print finishing opened up new possibilities in printing and packaging design, which were accelerated with the introduction of digital printing. With the world welcoming the digital age, the printing industry followed suit.

The Dawn of Digital

The reprographics sector, which began in a very analogue printing world, is seeing a large-scale transition through digital revolution.

Technologies that focus on automation and digitalisation of workflows have enabled reprographic houses, such as Contact Originators, to become faster, more responsive, and more critical to print success.

This means that repro partners that are switched on to the needs of the market are in a prime position to help brand owners and their print partners to adapt and stay agile.

Additionally, automation in areas such as colour management and platemaking combine pin-point precision with speed, freeing up reprographic operatives for other value-adding tasks. Because of this, today’s dedicated print and packaging repro partners are able to offer a fuller and more rounded service.

A great example of next-generation digital technology adding value for printers is PrintHQ, an automated digital shim printing technology, developed in partnership with AV Flexologic for corrugated printers. Using inkjet technology to deliver key job information directly onto the flexo plate shim, the solution is the result of 12 months of collaboration between the two companies.

The future of repro

So, where is reprographics set to move next? Simply, as a crucial part of print success, it follows the direction of the wider packaging market.

For many businesses, this means harnessing the benefits of a dedicated repro partner to bolster areas such as sustainability, as environmental impact of print continues to climb the agenda.

With a dedicated team handling aspects of colour management and prepress, resources can be optimised to control cost alongside reducing excess energy, time and carbon from print reruns.

Whatever the future holds for packaging printers and converters, Contact Originators will be standing by to help businesses of every size flex with the needs of the market. Get in touch with our team today to discuss your next packaging project.

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