The gang at INKredible sat down recently for a chat about where we think printing is going to go in the years to come. As our lives are always immersed in the wonderful world of printing, ink and toner, we're quite well placed to offer our opinions!
Gone are the days of your standard black-and-white, ugly mono printers – today's machines are little whizz-bang pots of technology - so what trends can we expect to see?
Printers that look like iPads
Have you noticed how many of today's printers look like spaceships? Check out Lexmark's Genesis for a case in point.
In one sense, this change to make printers look like modern tech gadgets is a move on the part of printer makers to make their machines more aesthetically-pleasing and compete better with their rivals.
But if we scratch a little deeper below the surface, it's also the case that lots of these new additions offer some really functional value. Take things like central navigation screens - digital menus from where users can control all aspects of their appliance. This removes the needs for fiddly buttons and means everything you need to work your printer is in one consolidated place.
There are also things like USB ports – enabling you to pop a memory stick in your printer, access a document and print it off in a matter of seconds.
This is something we think will really develop, so that in the future printers are not merely functional machines that do a job but a central part of the printing process.
The move to wireless
Wireless printing, while still really in its infancy, is something we think will grow and grow. Thanks to wireless technology, it's no longer necessary to have printers connected up by reams of wires to computers and workstations.
At first glance, this might seem unnecessary – who cares if you have to connect a lead up? But wireless printing offers a host of real benefits for companies and the individual consumer.
Think about it – if you can print wirelessly, you can print from almost anywhere. This allows you to work on the go – sending documents to print from other parts of the office, freeing up more time to concentrate on other tasks.
For home workers, space is often an issue, where wireless again comes in handy.
The rise of 3D
It feels like not a day goes by without 3D printing getting some kind of mention – it can apparently do almost anything, from printing house keys to replicating museum exhibits.
The process uses modelling software to 'build' 3D objects – currently, they are limited in size, but in future could be a lot bigger. While there's undoubtedly an awful lot of fanfare surrounding the technology, we can expect it to have a number of real-world uses – it could enable companies to build product prototypes and it's even been suggested it could build replica body parts.
What do you think?