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Changing colours: How printing colour has evolved

As printing colour has evolved, find out how Canon is discovering new ways to deliver on quality and consistency. 

Colour printing has come a long way since the first digital printing press entered the market more than two decades ago.

As printing technology has improved, costs have fallen, making large-format colour printing a viable option for businesses of all sizes.
The growing demand for large-format printing
Traditionally, large-format colour digital printing has mostly been for CAD and GIS projects. But as the image quality and colour accuracy of digital devices has improved, digital colour printing has been able to establish a large footprint in other markets – advertising and retail point-of-sale (POS), in particular.
For printing professionals, digital disruption of LF colour printing has opened up two significant areas of opportunity. Lower costs and faster project turnaround times mean smaller printing houses can now compete for a wider range of printing jobs. Meanwhile, other businesses that previously had to outsource their printing requirements can now afford to do it all in-house.
Laser quality with inkjet efficiency
The inkjet system is, in most cases, the most practical solution for LF printing. The printers take less time to warm up, cost per page is generally lower than laser and replenishing the ink costs much less than replacing an entire laser cartridge. The downside is often the quality – at very high resolutions, many colour inkjets simply aren’t able to produce the crisp lines and legible small text required by complex CAD and GIS projects.
Canon has tackled this issue with its five-colour reactive printing technology, which works by combining black and coloured ink to cause a chemical reaction that dries the ink quickly and minimises its diffusion through the paper. This allows the user to print at resolutions of up to 1200dpi with 0.1 per cent ink placement precision. Tiny fonts are rendered legibly, along with fine lines and curves. Quality issues caused by uneven ink droplet size and placement on the paper are further eliminated through the use of FINE technology (Full-Photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering).
Digital colour printing is also able to provide much more fine-grained cost control than analogue systems. Canon’s range includes an economy mode for low-cost prints that reduces ink consumption by around 50 per cent when compared to conventional draft mode.
Faster throughput
Another advantage of the photolithograph nozzle and the five-colour reactive system is much higher printing speeds. In an attempt to reduce image fuzziness, conventional printers will often make multiple passes across the paper. With FINE reactive colour printing, this isn’t necessary. Because the output is of production-level quality in the first pass, much faster bidirectional printing speeds are possible.
Another efficiency booster is ‘hot swap’ ink tanks. On standard inkjet printers, an empty ink cartridge will usually bring the printing process grinding to a halt. Hot swap technology ensures that, as long as the maintenance schedule is adhered to, printing can continue without such interruptions. When combined with dual roll capacity in models such as the Canon iPF840 and iPF850, this makes them ideal for printing large runs.
Another common limiting factor in large-format digital printing is the sheer amount of data travelling through the system – with the largest colour images often exceeding 200MB. To address this problem, Canon’s high-speed L-COA (Large Format Printer Common Architecture) print controller serves as the ‘brain’ of the device to ensure high print precision, image quality and colour accuracy for even the heftiest jobs.
Considering that time is money, these advances can serve to greatly reduce the cost gap between electronic and hard-copy formats.
Saying goodnight to black and white
Where budget limitations have previously kept much large-format printing black and white, these exciting new developments in printing and toner technology are helping to make high-quality colour printing a feasible reality across a wider cross-section of the printing market.

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