History of Digital Printing at Hobbs

By David Hobbs


In the 1980s Hobbs had a reputation for being extremely efficient in printing not only ‘long print runs’ (typically 1,000 copies upwards) but also ‘short runs’ which at that time was typically printing 100 copies and above. 

Graphic Arts Technology and Litho Press

Due to the limitations of graphic arts technology in the 1980s, printing on a litho press was the only method to reproduce high quality text and images.  Whilst various electrostatic copiers and duplicators were developed, they could not print an acceptable quality nor print on the same paper as used in a conventionally printed book.  

Hobbs Press Room in 1980 at our old factory in Millbrook

Short Run Digital Print and Print On Demand

All this changed in 1990 when Xerox launched the DocuTech Production Publisher Model 135.  This was a high-end laser monochrome printer with an integrated scanner.  Suddenly it was possible to print on papers that were the same as used for conventionally printed books at 600dpi (dots per inch) which was acceptable for clients where the book was predominantly black text and did not contain high-quality half-tones.  Without the need to make litho plates nor make-ready presses suddenly an economical method of printing very short runs – as low as one copy – was possible and the term ‘Print on Demand’ was introduced to the printers’ vocabulary.

Hobbs bought its first DocuTech 135 in 1991 which was swiftly followed by a second and third machine as volumes and demand grew.  Soon afterwards a feature called network printing was added to the models, enabling digital print files to be sent to the DocuTechs.


Hobbs DocuTech Department in 1995

The First Colour Digital Offset Press

As this Xerox technology became established other companies such as Canon and Océ also launched digital printers that were in some cases faster or printed to a higher resolution, up to 1200 dpi.  Colour digital printing machines were also being invented and a new company called Indigo launched the first colour digital offset press in 1993 using a fine toner it called Electroink.  After being acquired by HP the Indigo technology was further developed and models were launched (including the Indigo 5000) that produced a print quality compatible with litho. 


Hobbs current Indigo 7900 digital colour offset press

Latest Digital Printing Technology

Hobbs invested in all the above digital sheet-fed technologies as well as continuous devices, starting in 1999 and culminating this year with our latest investment in a colour inkjet system.  This has enabled our clients to benefit from the latest state of the art digital printing technology throughout the past 30 years. 

To see the digital printing equipment at Hobbs today, please get in touch via the form below or send us an email at sales@hobbs.uk.com.

Benefits of Using Our Digital Print Technology

Sometimes it can be difficult for the client to decide if it is more economical to print a job using litho presses or digital printing machines.  Hobbs will always be pleased to produce estimates so explain the break-even point for the client’s individual title.

Benefits that can easily be overlooked from using Hobbs digital printing capabilities is that a client can request Short Run Reprints when stock has been depleted and there is a requirement for relatively few copies to fulfil unforeseen orders (even if the initial print run was printed litho) or the volume of future orders for a title is uncertain and the client does not wish to risk printing copies that may not be sold.

Alternatively, the client can go a step further and utilise Hobbs’ range of digital printing services to have a true Print on Demand service when even a single copy can be printed and sent to the client, thus eliminating the need to hold any stock.

For the client utilising digital printing in the above ways can result in:

  • Improved cash flow and bank balances due to less money being tied up in slow moving and obsolete stock.
  • Cost savings through having to pay less for storing slow moving or obsolete stock.
  • Cost saving due to fewer books being printed.

Please do contact us if you would like to discuss any of the above options.

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    Chris Hobbs on 12th October 2021

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