Although it is difficult to see where printing might be going, it has remained a major part of human culture for five centuries. Although it was challenged by other audiovisual media, printing’s impact was immense, helping to develop such new technologies as television, film, microfilm, tape recording, and radio. Printing has also spawned a variety of other rival technologies, ranging from packaging and textiles to the manufacture of miniature electronic circuits.
Historically, printing has involved applying colour under pressure to reproduce text or illustrations. However, modern processes do not depend on the material concept of colouring agent and mechanical pressure. Consequently, they have the potential to completely replace other processes. Depending on the media, printing can produce a variety of print media, including black and white and colour, and text and illustrations. It can also produce a desired number of identical copies. In some cases, the image carrier may be raised off the surface of the paper.
The printing industry uses a variety of different printing techniques, including offset and digital. Gravure printing, for example, is best suited for long print runs, and is often used for packaging, fabric, and wallpaper. Laser printing, on the other hand, is primarily used for office and transactional printing, such as letters and postcards. Direct mail companies use laser printing to create variable data letters. Intaglio printing, on the other hand, is used to print high-value documents. Thermal printing was popular in the 1990s, and is used for airline baggage tags and individual price labels on supermarket deli counters.