The Print grit, how a dying print keeps living in the digital age

newspaper media publications

South Africa’s leading newspapers still print newspapers, despite the saying print is dead.

The notion of a dead print industry mushroomed as the digital age accelerated into a reality where paperless systems appeared to be the desired mode of communication and a solid benefit for the environment.

The print industry in some sectors has been marred by job losses and publication closures amid the recurring threat of retrenchments.

Add the Covid19 pandemic and the past three years have been an upward climb for the print industry which once dominated the marketing and advertising ecosystem for revenue.

The South African National Editors Forum even commented on the impact of Covid-19 on journalism including the media industry hard hit during the pandemic.

Is print battling?

This is a complex question considering print is broad and factors in different industries/sectors.

Take Epson South Africa for instance.

Their Office Automation Sales Manager Yudheer Harbhajun in discussion says there’s far more to printing than just ink on a page. There are multiple factors making it increasingly vital to organisations around the globe

“Print has become highly intelligent. There have been huge advances in bio printing where organic and living materials can be produced for medical procedures, research, training and testing, in addition to developments in printing textiles, packaging, circuit boards and metals.”

“Across the world, exciting developments are taking place in healthcare. For example, 3D printing is already being used to print human organs,” adds Harbhajun.

“UK scientists have used stem cells to print human corneas. The proof-of-concept research for the 3D-printing technique saw human corneal stromal cells being taken from a healthy donor cornea and then mixed with alginate and collagen to create a ‘bio-ink’ solution that could be printed. Using a low-cost 3D bio-printer, the bio-ink was successfully printed in concentric circles to form the shape of a human cornea in less than ten minutes.”

A p0tent point right?

Other industries also use print in a time where the idea of print seems absolute.

According to Harbhajun, the use of 3D printing for the creation of foods has evolved over the years.

“Recently, international deep-tech food company Steakholder Foods Ltd announced the release of a new, 3D printed meat cut called Omakase Beef Morsels. The richly marbled structured meat product is the first of its kind and was created using a specific 3D-bioprinting technology, inspired by the famous Japanese Wagyu beef.”

Harbhajun adds that digital printing has accelerated in recent years as the capabilities for packaging, textiles and labelling have expanded. Digital printing technologies are by nature more sustainable than traditional analogue alternatives, and offer a way forward towards clean, efficient, profitable, localised manufacturing.

“While digital printing was previously adopted to improve quality and save on time and resources, organisations are now also making the switch because of positive impacts on the supply chain. As a result, nearshoring has become a recognised benefit of digital printing as it streamlines the entire production process, enabling products to be produced on-demand. In fact, according to a McKinsey & Company survey, 71 per cent of clothing and fashion companies expect to raise their nearshoring share by 2025.”

The notion that the print industry is dying instead of dead could translate to a resilient industry which against the odds has found new ways to adapt while retaining its traditional identity.

Think fashion

The fashion industry is one industry which also does not look like its slowing down any time soon, considering digital textile printing saves as much as 95% of industrial water usage.

When looking at the fashion industry specifically, a major factor driving the adoption of digital printing is that it can improve any organisations environmental footprint with efficient quality costing.

The continued need for paper even in the digital era.

Inkjet products have been gaining traction as they use up to 90 per cent less energy and create less waste than equivalent laser printers, according to Epson.

Epson inkjet printers use heat-free technology which means heat is not required in the ink ejection process.

Also read: Queen Charlotte on Netflix: Here’s what to look out for

Featured image: A bundle of newspapers. Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash 



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