History of Offset Printing

A Short History of Offset Printing

The history of offset printing could fill volumes. Instead, we would like to highlight more modern advances in offset printing as it relates to sheet-fed and web printers.

  • 1875: The first press to use offset lithography and the offset printing process is invented in England.  It used a cardboard covered cylinder to transfer the image from stone to a metal surface.
  • 1880: Rubber is discovered as a more effective transfer method on an offset printing cylinder.
  • 1892: First four color rotary press is invented.
  • 1895: Harris Automatic Press Company is founded in Niles, Ohio.  The company begins research on how to better the offset printing process.
  • 1903: Ira Washington Rubel of the United States first uses the offset process and uses it to print on paper.  He discovers that images print sharper by printing from the stone to the blanket and then to the paper. This forms the basis for all modern offset lithography.
  • 1911:  Man Roland enters the offset printing market with their first offset printing press.
  • 1930:  Heatset printing makes a debut with the first heatset inks being produced for offset printers.
  • 1950:  Lithographic offset printing becomes a direct competitor with letterpress. Popularity now swings in the direction of offset printing as the desired and most economical form of printing.
  • 1960:  More and more newspaper printers begin replacing their outdated letterpress machines with offset presses.
  • 1962: Heidelberg begins the development of offset printing presses.  This came after decades of resistance by management. Technicians were able to convince them that this was the way of the future.
  • 1995: Computer-to-plate makes its debut at trade shows around the world.
  • 1998: Heidelberg patents the gapless printing cylinder.
  • 2002:  Man Roland patents the magnetic brake system for folders allowing quarter folders to print faster.