Glossary

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Term Definition
Actuator

The element inside a piezo-electric printhead in which a pressure wave is generated to eject a stream or discrete drops of ink through the nozzle. The actuator will normally be found within the ink chamber, sometimes forming the actual chamber walls. See also Piezo Printhead and Thermal Printhead.

Adobe Illustrator

A vector based linework drawing program from Adobe Systems, available for Mac OS X and Windows operating systems. The current version is Illustrator CC 2014, part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of rental-only programs. Its main output file formats are the native AI, and the device-independent EPS and PDF.

Adobe Photoshop

The dominant program used in professional photography, design and print for processing, editing retouching and compositing of photographic and similar bitmap images. It was originally introduced in 1990 for the Apple Macintosh, and later developed as a parallel Windows version that now offers almost identical features.

AFP

Stands for Advanced Function Presentation. It’s a printer architecture that’s mainly used for financial, transactional and direct mail applications, which contain personalised and other variable content. It was originally developed by IBM (which called it Advanced Function Printing), but was handed over to the multi-developer AFP Consortium in 2004, which brought it up to date with respect to colour content.

Analogue

Infinitely variable, the stuff of everyday experience. A dimmer switch on a room light (or car instrument lights) is analogue, as the light increases or decreases smoothly and steplessly. In the printing sector, analogue is normally used as a distinction from digital, which splits things up into tiny chunks, all of the same size. Think of analogue as a ski-slope, and digital as the stairs you use to reach the top.

Aqueous ink

An ink using water as the main carrier. Also called water-based ink. This ink is considered non-toxic and safe for general domestic and office use. Aqueous ink is also often used for high quality fine art and photographic printing. It has little or no odour during or after printing. It’s normally more expensive than solvent based inks.

Array

A general term that has more specific meanings in inkjet printing, as either an alternative name for a print head (in the nozzle sense), or the collective term for a number of such print heads arranged together. See print head.

Banding

Visible lines or stripes of differing density on a printed inkjet image, considered as a fault. It’s always associated with scanning-carriage inkjets and appears across the print width. If the print is intended for viewing from a distance, such as a billboard, banding may not be a problem as it is hardly visible.

Bézier curves

These are mathematical descriptions of curves that are commonly used for vector drawing, with a graphical user interface that allows the user to create and modify them. On-screen the designer sees them as arcs linked by anchor points with extendable handles that are used to alter the shape to any extent.

Binary Inkjet

A drop-on-demand printhead which can either fire a drop of one particular size or no drop at all (binary being on or off with no in-between). This contrasts with greyscale heads, that can fire several different droplet sizes to give different ink densities. See Greyscale.

Bit

Binary Digit. Computers work with numbers built up from just two states: 0 or 1, equivalent to an electrical switch being off or on. They are normally grouped together in eights, called bytes. An 8-bit byte can contain any number between 0 and 255. See Byte.

Bit depth

Each pixel in a digital image can be assigned a particular shade, or grey level, between white and black. This is represented in a computer by a binary number, ie a string of 0 and 1 numbers.

Bitmap

Technical description for the way a computer builds up an image from building blocks of dots, or pixels. An image on a screen is a bitmap. A processed image that is output by a raster image processor (RIP) to a printer or imagesetter is a bitmap.

Byte

A block of bits, normally a group of eight. Using binary numerals, an 8-bit byte can be used to count from 0-255, giving 256 values. This figure appears frequently in graphic arts, as it is often used as the number of density levels per colour that a computer screen or halftone dot is capable of reproducing.

CAD

Stands for Computer-Aided Design. Generally vector-based software that is used in the printing industry for packaging structural design, but it can also drive laser forme cutters for cutting and creasing dies, or cutting tables for signage (though normally the cutting layout is incorporated as a separate layer within a graphics file).