Since the development of chemical inks around 4000 years ago, the printing industry has progressed by leaps and bounds. As science and technology progressed from age to age, the world of printing has, as well witnessed a metamorphosis from the days of the Gutenberg printing press to a variety of modern printers, which have successfully eliminated ink from the equation, and made the process a lot more simple and effective.
Fax Machines and Photocopiers Were Always Inkless!
The thermal fax machine is possibly one of the most common instances of inkless printing. When fed with special thermal paper, the machine applies heat on the same to print images or text. As it uses no ink, it slashes maintenance costs, is more durable and is also more compact. Another variant utilizes a ribbon and melts it onto paper to print text.
Another very interesting fact is that photocopiers have never used ink. Photocopiers use a powdery material known as toner, which is negatively charged. The copier selectively electrifies the regions of paper to be printed on, after using light to analyze the original, and then allows the toner to fall on the positively charged areas to replicate the content. Once this is done, the toner is fused into a blank sheet of paper, and this is how a copy is made.
New Breakthroughs are on the Horizon
No one would believe that photocopiers or fax machines are cutting edge technologies which are ready to and capable of replacing ink in mainstream printing, as ink is a lot more durable, sharper and brighter too. However, bumps in the road have not been enough to stop scientists from working on other fascinating techniques which may someday replace ink altogether.
In 2007, Zink (Zero-Ink) Imaging announced that they had finally perfected an inkless printing technology, which involves the application of specific amounts of heat to embedded dye crystals in paper to produce a high-quality print, for text as well as photos. Having eliminated ink and cartridges, the devices can be ridiculously small, as demonstrated by Zink in their flagship product, a collaborative effort with Polaroid- the mobile photo printer was the size of a pack of cards.
A Glimpse of the Future
A name which has been on tongues all over the world, be it in recognition of the company itself, or a malapropism when referring to photocopiers, Xerox, has now taken a drastically different approach to inkless printing, by capitalizing on the short life of inkless prints, and marketing them as “easily erasable”. The special paper is coated with heliochromic chemicals, which are sensitive to ultraviolet light, and change color in a manner much similar to that of photosensitive sunglasses or spectacle lenses which darken in response to sunlight, but remain light or clear indoors.
The Xerox printer “zaps” the paper with UV light of a predetermined wavelength at particular spots, to generate the print. Although it seems absurd, it makes a lot of sense as it promotes reusability of paper- the print would fade away within 16-24 hours. Also, the process can be reversed immediately by passing another specific wavelength of light. They are also working on a high-fidelity version of the same which would allow users to erase the printed data at their own leisure.
Inkless Printing: Soon to be a Standard?
It is indeed a wonderful time for the world of print media. At the rate at which technology is advancing each day, we might soon be looking back on present day printing methods with a smile, as they will be replaced by more efficient, more affordable, and cheaper mechanisms. You must hire reliable printing services that use state of the art technology and top materials to produce the best prints every time.