Can We Define "Print"?

The podcast is called Is Print Dead? The underlying premise is that forms of communication are changing and print as we know it may not be the winning medium as we move forward. But a series of conversations with guests on the podcasts and comments from LinkedIn and Twitter got me to thinking that we might all be using the word "print" differently.

Drawing a box around the word "print" turns out to be tricky. We all tend to agree that books, newspapers, direct mail marketing, and marketing collateral are "print". Depending on the industry you serve, you might add banners, printed billboards, and wide format work to the list. But do you include flexible packaging? Printed corrugated boxes? Vehicle and building wraps? I find that I have been including them in my definition, and these are areas that are clearly expanding, even as some more traditional forms of print are declining.

And then it gets even more complicated when you look at printed textiles, direct to garment printing, and direct to shape printing. Especially in the digital printing world, these functional industrial printing areas are growing at a fast pace as new inkjet head technologies paired with new ink technologies and drying technologies lay the foundation for new product offerings from both major vendors and emerging providers. We might still agree that it is printing since there is a target substrate and marking technology, but I have had some pushback.

Now let's take a walk on the wild side. Is 3D printing really printing, or, as some call, additive manufacturing? What about printed RFID tags or other circuitry, that uses the same methodology as other forms of printing? I'm struggling here.

It seems that over the next decade we will see printing technologies continue to expand, but I'm not sure what that means for the concept of "print".