Now then, with less than three weeks left of 2013 (yes, really!), here at Toner Giant, we’re in a bit of a reflective mood and it made us think about what this year has meant to the printing industry. Like most industries, it’s ever changing and evolving but some changes, innovations and advances have really stood out for us, so we thought we’d summarise and share them with you…
Image courtesy of Deviant Art
Image courtesy of Airwolf 3D
Until recently, 3D printing has been used for mass-production of items such as auto parts and hence, the printers and technology needed was costly and thus not likely to be owned by small-scale businesses. That however, looks set to change. The prices for such printers are decreasing and the technology is simplified. That means that small businesses can forego the costly process of getting prototypes or one-off items produced by specialist shops and instead produce replicable and editable models of whatever their specific industry requires. 3D printers can handle as many as 10 different types of material, such as plastic, glass, metal or wood to produce multi-component objects at a relatively low cost. In other words, it simplifies and speeds up the production of physical items because the design and manufacturing can now be done in the same place and, potentially, by the same person! This does sound pretty revolutionary and while we don’t expect 3D printing to extinguish traditional manufacturing, we’re sure it will come to complement it and thus aid smaller businesses in the production of objects without breaking the bank.
Portable and Mobile Printers
These nifty little printers have become big in 2013 – not least because they provide the perfect solution for people on the go. The list of industries portable and mobile printers are used in is ever-growing and as diverse as the printers themselves: from people who travel a lot or don’t have a designated office space, to photographers who need to quickly produce physical prints when out in the field, to plumbers or joiners who want to print off quotes, receipts and invoices while out at their customers’ homes or offices.
Portable and mobile printers, like the one above from Brother, have been around for a while but this year, they’ve become really established on the market due to reduced costs, even smaller sizes, and, perhaps most importantly, improved usability. When before they tended to be a bit fiddly, difficult to use and limited in their functionality, the newer models are really versatile and thus cater to a greater range of business requirements.
There’re some great portable photo printers on the market that enable you to print sharp pictures in a variety of sizes and in colour. Those who need to print black-and-white or colour A4 documents, will find a large choice. Some are compact, light and really simple to use, others offer a more diverse functionality, such as LCD displays to help you preview and edit your prints. If you’re not as limited in space and want to make use of a whole range of features, there’re even some multi-function portable printers available that offer pretty much the same as an office printer but are, well, portable.
Some portable printers don’t even require ink, as they incorporate thermal technology and, best of all, they’re wireless, making use of a range of technologies that we’ll cover below.
Advanced wireless printing technologies
By now, you’re probably familiar with the concept of wireless printing, i.e. sending the files you want to print without using cables to connect your computer or other devices to the printer you want to print from. To enable you to do that, you’d need a working network connection.
Cloud printing offers an enhanced experience, plus, it enables you to send documents from anywhere in the world, provided your device is connected to the internet. You simply need to connect your devices and your printer to the ‘Cloud’ and the document you wanted to print comes out of your office printer, whether you’re stuck on the M1 or stretching out on a deckchair in the Caribbean.
NFC (‘Near Field Communication’) is another wireless technology that has been making waves this year. It is similar to Cloud printing in the sense that it also enables you to connect your mobile phone or tablet to your printer without having to send the data to your computer first. The main differences are that your device has to be in close range of the printer (which is making the data transfer very secure) and that it requires the use of an app. NFC has been in use for things like payments and traveling but lately, we’ve seen an emergence of printers that incorporate this technology and for some mobile devices, this has become a standard feature. It is a great innovation, especially for people who tend to use different printers and in different places.
What have the changes and advances in 2013 meant to your ‘printing behaviour’? Which products or technologies have benefitted your business and what are you looking to invest in next year that enable you to stay on top of the game? We’d appreciate your thoughts and stay tuned for our blog post on what we think 2014 will mean to the printing industry!