Web Offset Printing- Technology with a Rich History

If you are a business owner you have probably had some experience with web offset printing. Web offset printing is the printing method of choice for large volume printing such as newspapers, magazines, brochures and books. Although new technology has improved web offset printing, it has a long history that dates back to over a century ago.

The very first offset printing machine was created in England in 1875 by Robert Barclay. This first offset printing machine was designed to print on metal not paper. It was in 1903 that the first American offset printing machine was accidentally created by Ira Rubel.

Rubel simply forgot to put paper into his lithographic press and with that he made a valuable discovery. What he found was that the stone plate transferred the image right onto the rubber cylinder. When Rubel finally got around to putting paper in the machine, he was shocked to see that the image came out on both sides!

But that’s not all Rubel discovered. 

When he looked at both sides of the paper, he saw that the side that had been printed with the rubber cylinder looked much better than the side that had been printed by the stone.  He realized that his accident had actually created a finished product that was crisper and cleaner. Offset printing was born!

Around the same time that Rubel was stumbling across printing history, brothers Charles and Albert Harris noticed the same phenomenon.  They, however, decided to put their realization to work for them. The Harris brothers developed an offset printing press for their company, Harris Automatic Press Company, and soon after had it installed right in their print shop and started using it for customers’ orders.

Once people started to see how crisp and clear the new images were, the offset printing machine became quite a hit. By the 1950’s, offset printing was the most common form of commercial printing. As the quality of paper, ink, and plates got better, so did the offset printing process.  Machines started working faster and lasting longer.

The offset printing process hasn’t changed much since the 1950’s.  Today, offset printing is still the most common form of commercial printing.  It is used for massive publications such as newspapers, magazines, and catalogs. Offset printing is still the most popular form of printing for large printing jobs.