Have you ever thought about how simple it is to transfer the digital document you’re working on from your computer, tablet, or mobile phone to paper? Before printing was ever part of our daily lives, people had to be creative in the way they shared and reproduced literature or images. In fact, printing has changed the way people communicate with each other, making it one of the most important discoveries in the history of humankind.
The invention of printers is fascinating, and even more interesting is its rich history that brought us where we are today, with convenient and brilliant options ranging from all-in-one and 3D printers to wireless printing – now even available directly from your mobile phone!
The Printing Press
The printing press was originally created by Wang Chen in China during the first millennium A.D. He crafted a method that was known as block printing and that involved the use of panels of hand-carved woodblocks in reverse. This invention revolutionized society in China, where it continued to evolve throughout the years until it reached Europe 150 years after Chen’s innovation.
The development and widespread adoption of the printing press can be attributed to Johannes Gutenberg in the 1440s in Germany. Gutenberg devised a machine that would apply pressure to an inked surface that was resting on a print medium (such as paper or cloth), thus transferring the ink. He also added a hand mold to the press, which made it possible to generate precise and quick movable types in large quantities.
Gutenberg’s invention grew globally and marked what it’s now known as the Printing Revolution. After nearly 500 years, printers all over the world continue to apply the same basics of his printing technology – a more developed and efficient printing press.
The first picture ever printed dates back to 1938 in Seattle, when Chester Carlson developed a pioneering printing process called xerography. This technique works on the basis of electrostatic charges: during the process, an electrically charged photoconductor-coated metal plate flashes out light and causes the dry ink (toner) to stick to a light-sensitive drum. As the drum rolls over the paper, both ink and copied image are left behind.
The next step in the evolution of printing is the laser printer technology in the late 1960s. This process works almost the same way as the xerography printing, with one main difference: because there is no original page to copy, the laser has to write it out from scratch using static electricity.
The concept of inkjet printing was first ideated in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 20 years later that inkjet printers could reproduce images generated by computers. According to History, the story narrates that a man called John Vaught was asked by the HP team in California to work on devising an inkjet printer. As he went to grab his coffee in the morning, the mechanism behind his coffee percolator inspired him: as the water was heated to spread evenly over the coffee grounds, he believed that by heating the ink, it could then be uniformly applied to the desired medium. And he was right! The inventive technology became a success, and in 1988 the first inkjet printer became a home consumer item with the release of Desk Jet.
We are now in 1984 in Colorado, where Charles Hull developed a groundbreaking technology called stereolithography. 3D printing involves making 3-dimensional solid objectives from a digital file using additive processes: the item is created by adding layers of a selected material one on top of the other. Today, this printing technique has become widespread and its applications have expanded to the medical field, construction, and even aviation.
All in One Printer (MFP)
As the name suggests, all-in-one printers, also known as multi-function printers (MFP), include copying, scanning, printing, and fax capabilities all in the same printing device. These printers are one of the most popular ones on the market, as they provide convenience by eliminating the need for a separate machine for each feature.
This revolutionary printing technology was developed in 1993 by Andrew Clams. This printer connects to your computer, phone, or tablet by Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, allowing you to print directly from your device without being plugged into the printer.
And the printing technology is a continuous evolution! Released in 2014, the Mopria Print Service App is designed to simplify printing even more. The revolutionary app allows both Android and Windows 10 users to seamlessly connect and print directly from their mobile and desktop devices to more than 120 million Mopria certified printers, at home or on-the-go.
The printers that are now in homes and workspaces are the result of years of hard work and expert engineering. So next time you click “print” on your device, don’t forget about all the brilliant minds that developed and continue to work on this ingenious technology.