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In the COVID19 pandemic, expect printers to be survivors

For many print buyers and marketers, dealing with printing and printers is just a job responsibility. For others, however, it’s more—a connection with a craft that’s very old yet still cutting-edge and an integral part of our society. 

As the coronavirus has upended the global economy including printing, it’s worth remembering that printing has endured for centuries and will still be around when this is over.

Historically, printing has always been about innovation and thriving amid economic and social turmoil.

Printing technology stretches back to the 1300s, with the development of rag paper and block printing in China. It’s undergone one revolution after another since then: from Gutenberg’s combination of the printing press and oil-based ink in the 15th century to the technologies of the rotary press, hot metal typesetting, offset printing, the linotype machine, laser printing, and 3D printing.

By some accounts, an epidemic—the first round of the bubonic plague in the 1340s—gave printing its earliest boost. In medieval Europe, the plague had a leveling effect on a society skewed toward the rich. As the epidemic killed off some 60% of the population, the middle and lower classes inherited property and became wealthier—more people could afford books, which encouraged more printing. In addition, the plague weakened the Church and led to the reorganization of the economy and society. The invention of the printing press and Protestant Reformation eventually followed, in which copies of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses as well as his translation of the New Testament into German boosted demand for printing by becoming the first best-sellers.

We don’t know how today’s coronavirus pandemic will change the economy in the long run, but it’s increased demand for one printing technology: 3D printing. 

To fill the urgent need around the world for medical equipment, 3D printing innovators at universities and in the private sector are designing and manufacturing valves for ventilators, respirator parts, face shields and goggles, test swabs, and latches that allow medical personnel to open doors with an elbow. In China, designers have used 3D technology to create quarantine booths for hospitals. 

While 3D printing can’t yet produce on a mass scale, on the local and regional levels, its advantages of speed, flexibility, and proximity—mean there’s no need to rely on a global supply chain—which is potentially life-saving.

More-traditional printing has taken a financial hit, but economic forecasters such as IDC believe the pandemic will create opportunities for digital printing, with its advantages of short runs, speed, flexibility, and customization. For instance, there could be demand for drug labeling, packaging, promotional materials, and immunization manuals.  Other experts see an ongoing opportunity for direct mail, signage, and POP, as people focus their lives close to home.

While these are extremely challenging times, if history is any guide, printers ultimately will find ways to serve old and new markets and to innovate, as they have for hundreds of years.

Contact info@elynxx.com or 717-709-0990 for information on how eLynxx software and service helps print buyers manage all aspects of print projects, including an online storefront for easy ordering of frequently used printed items.

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