Printing actually began around 3,500 BC by the ancient Mesopotamian civilisation. Images were duplicated by using round “cylinder seals” to impress an image onto clay tablets.
Woodblock printing is a technique for printing images onto cloth and was used by the Chinese in the early third century and the Egyptians in the fourth century.
The big development in printing came in the 15th century when Johannes Gutenberg developed the printing press.
However, label printing did not begin until 1935. This is when Stan Avery invented a machine to make self adhesive labels. He developed his first label printing machine from second hand parts. The equipment that Stanton developed was able to place a sticky layer on the paper. Then a silicone layer was added to allow for an easy release.
Initially, flexible rubber printing plates were used to enable the image to be printed onto the label stock.
Today, photopolymer plates are used. They have a steel or plastic backing material and come in various thicknesses. These plates are used in flexographic printing, a type of printing that enables the image to be imprinted onto the label stock from these flexible plates.
Laser printers were first developed in 1984 by Hewlett Packard. These enabled images to be printed digitally without the need for plates. In the 1980s, many businesses started printing labels digitally, even if only for simple purposes such as for client’s addresses.
Label printing technology has improved in leaps and bounds over the last 20 years. In 2011, label printing can be done digitally in very short runs economically for customers. At Renton’s Labels our choice of technology is an Epson Label Printer and an iTech Axxis Digital Finishing System. This technology not only does away with the need for printing plates, but also dies. The labels are cut digitally to the required size and shape.
No doubt the 21st century will bring even more developments in label printing.