GQA Qualifications Blog

Tuesday 28 August 2012

The Print Industry and GQA Qualifications

Printing is believed to be the UK's fifth largest manufacturing industry and Printing provides work for almost 150,000 employees. It is widely believed that printing originated in China, firstly printing onto textiles and later onto paper. The earliest surviving examples from China date to before 220 A.D, and by the 9th century printing onto paper had really taken off, by the 19th century several methods of colour printing were developed.
The past 20 years have seen enormous changes with the introduction of digital technology as with many industries, impacting on the wide range of print production processes in use and contributing to the changes in the range jobs, print now has to offer. Career paths in the industry extend from design and print, paper and ink manufacture, press engineering and design through to product distribution.
The industry has been a key form of communication for many years filling our day to day lives with colour and creative design, throughout magazines, food packaging and daily news and is so often taken for granted leading to little promotion of the vocational sector. As an industry it has shown continual development in technological advances and strives to improve on the quality of its output.
The Print world is split into a number of sections with many Companies specialising in 1 or 2 areas while some cover a wider range. The headings that broadly cover the Print Industry, certainly from the qualifications aspect  are Machine Printing, Digital or Pre-press, Print Finishing, Print Administration and Print Leadership.
It would take the whole of this website to provide detail on all of the subsections in the Print Industry so we won’t even try but the main printing processes are:
• Lithography
• Gravure
• Letterpress
• Flexography
• Screen printing
• Digital Printing
Below is a little more detail on specific aspects of Printing. 
Lithography is a printing process that uses chemical processes to create an image and the process used presently to produce posters, maps, books, newspapers, and packaging—just about any smooth, mass-produced item with print and graphics on it. Most books, indeed all types of high-volume text, are now printed using offset lithography.

Gravure is a type of printing process that involves engraving the image onto an image carrier. Typical uses are for printing long-run magazines in excess of 1 million copies, mail order catalogs, consumer packaging, Sunday newspaper ad inserts, wallpaper, and laminates for furniture where quality and consistency are desired. Another application area of gravure printing is in the flexible-packaging sector. A wide range of substrates such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polyester, BOPP, etc. can be printed in the gravure press.

Letterpress printing is relief printing of text and image using a press with a "type-high bed" printing press and movable type, in which a reversed, raised surface is inked and then pressed into a sheet of paper to obtain a positive right-reading image. This process is often used to create wedding invitations.

Flexography (also called "surface printing"), often abbreviated to "flexo", is a method of printing which utilises a flexible relief plate. It is basically an updated version of letterpress. The process is most commonly used for packaging (labels, tape, bags, boxes, banners, and so on).

Screenprinting has its origins in simple stencilling. The artist creates a stencil and applies it to a piece of fabric (the screen) stretched over a wooden frame. Ink is pulled across the screen with a squeegee and forced through the openings in the stencil onto a sheet of paper below.  This process has many uses including clothing, balloons, decals and printed electronics.

Digital Printing refers to methods of printing from a digital based image directly to a variety of media. It usually refers to professional printing where small run jobs from desktop publishing and other digital sources are printed using large format and/or high volume laser or inkjet printers
All of the above Print areas have GQA qualifications suitable at Level 2 and Level 3

Print Finishing is the general term used to define anything done to a print after it is printed. It is considered a value-added process and includes laminating, mounting, image transfer, trimming and coating. The skills and knowledge required to work effectively in the Print Finishing working environment are wide ranging, so GQA qualifications for those employed in Print Finishing have been written to reflect this at both Level 2 and Level 3.
Print administrators can be involved in many of the different tasks within print production. Depending on the size of the organisation their responsibilities can include:

• Estimating
• Production control
• Servicing customer accounts
• Purchasing
• Staff training
GQA Print Administration qualifications are available at Level 2 and Level 3

Print Leadership is a Level 4 qualification aimed at those who have the responsibility and/or opportunity for providing leadership in a Print working environment and requires the candidate to also prove knowledge of technical matters, quality checks and the legal and commercial aspects of the Print Industry. Candidates will also need to be able to identify potential for improvements in working practices and procedures of themselves, individuals, departments and processes and procedures.

There are qualifications at different levels for all employed in the Print Industry regardless of the size of Organisation candidates work for. For further information: