POD history: how the print on demand was created and developed

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The global e-commerce market reached $82.5 billion in May 2020.  That is 77% more than in 2019. It would take from 4 to 6 years to make such progress! The reason for this incredible growth is the market stability, low prices for goods, product personalization, as well as AI introduction.

Millions of entrepreneurs have opened online-stores in many industries, including print on demand services. In parallel, supply and demand increase. For example, on eBay, the number of buyers has increased by 8 million. In the second quarter of last year, 26.4% of new sellers and 16.4% of buyers registered on the Etsy platform, which is more than last year. Sales also enlarged by 34.2%.

POD has become a hot trend, but this business is not new to the market. It has existed for many years. Advanced technology has opened up new opportunities in this industry. To understand how far this area has come, we thought it would be appropriate to look back at history.

Table of contents

Timeline

Conclusions from historical overview

print on demand progress

Timeline

So, first of all, let's understand what is print on demand business model. It's a process in which printing doesn't start until the paid-up order.

Manufacturing on-demand dates back to 220 AD in China, during the Tang Dynasty. That is how xylography was born - a method of applying a pattern to a large area of fabric. It meant folding the textile several times, clamping it between two blocks. Then artisan opened paint-filled compartments and gradually applied a pattern.

In the second half of the 17th century, the French from Indian colonies brought new embossing methods and technologies for fabric production. Of course, the powerful equipment that would automate production was out of the question in those days. Undecrypted paint formula, which was overly liquid, limited the use of printed drawings. Dyer applied patterns onto the fabric by hand or using various primitive machines. Progress in Europe got ahead so rapidly that it gave birth to calico printing. Thus, over several decades, of course, about 18 dyeing factories appeared in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

In 1764 the first printing house in Lancashire gave rise to POD. Meanwhile, in 1630 the East India Company began selling printed cotton to the British market. Long-term bleaching made it possible to preserve well the applied color.  The process was expensive and required a lot of water from nearby rivers. The prints were so simple and less colorful than, for example, in India. They were very popular among the British.

From an artistic point of view, the French created the most of the unique work on calico. From the first days of the industry development until the second half of the 20th century, Beauvais, Alsace-Lorraine, Rouen, Jouy products were the embodiment of the best art print on demand products.

That continued until the beginning of the 20th century when in one of the issues of "Galactic Science Fiction", printing on demand books seemed like something impossible. In the same century, the artist and inventor Michael Vasilantone came up with a way to quickly screen print "The Vasilantone". Then this invention took on a global character and led to the appearance of the first printer. In the 50s, they were already actively improving in parallel with computers. One of the pioneers in high-speed printers was Remington-Rand. So, in 1953 researchers invented a printing device for Univac computers.

In the 80s, printers became generally available. Printing on paper quickly supplemented direct-to-garment printing (DTG). The first example came in the 1990s with the printer named Revolution when several companies began offering print on demand services. It was a leap forward in personalized product development, from unique T-shirts to pillows. Ten years later, we saw the competition of many brands trying to get their piece of the DTG pie.

With technological advancement, many local print on demand companies have appeared. From that time until today, several technologies have been used in the industry. The printing option directly depends on the desired result. One of the most popular is digital inkjet printing. It's a great choice for drawing even the tiniest details and for using many different shades. By the way, the industry is still using roller printing based on 18th-century technology. In this case, technologists apply patterns to the fabric using stamps. As for screen printing, it is also utilized.  The printer applied paint to the textile while using stencils.

Soon, retail became less popular, and e-commerce replaced it. Platforms such as Shopify, Etsy, eBay, PrestaShop, BigCommerce, Wix, WooCommerce, Amazon have sprung up. The need for print on demand has grown. POD marketing becomes more authentic, focusing primarily on the Gen Z who love TikTok. This application isn't only a way to tell about ourselves, but also a trendsetter of fashion and style. Personalization and uniqueness of products become the main criterion for evaluating sales conversions. For example, eco-friendly print on demand is a trend because it allows you to produce anything from natural materials while not clogging the planet with plastic.

To establish a business process and understand how to make sales at different sites, we compare print on demand services. Most sites, including PodZa, are free. All you need to get started is to pay for the initial cost of the product and post-purchase shipping.

So, what do modern printing companies offer, and what are their common features? Let’s do a deep dive into the details.

Delivery: the product packing and shipping processes take about 5-7 business days and are shipped worldwide. In less than 3 days, the carrier sends 50% of orders to the recipient. Shipping prices start at $3.57. The price for shipping can be calculated right on the website. The price depends on available discounts, your location, and the contractor you choose. 

Print options: DTG; embroidery; digital, laser, and sublimation printing; screen printing; cutting, and sewing. It's possible to add labels, stickers, and inserts, as well as patches to brand your products.

Features: Some apps may include a mockup generator and can be easily integrated with most trading platforms. The printing companies really compete for their customers and offer pleasant discounts for monthly subscriptions or sample orders. There are options for both beginners and mature companies.

So, here is a bunch of answers to the question, “how does print on demand work?” Starting your POD business may seem complicated at first, but once you see all the advantages and opportunities, it becomes a lot more simple. Make your contribution to the print on demand industry evolution!

POD is an old business that has been in demand since the beginning of AD 220. The development of printing on fabric in Europe was so rapid. The 17th century crowned the creation of unique products and the beginning of sales to the English market. At that time, they were incomplete, but at the same time, they made a breakthrough. To date, the methods of making fabric patterns have significantly improved, and so has the printing process.

Print on demand products take a great part in our lives. They are the way people express themselves, speak to the world, and show their uniqueness. The POD products have made a long way and still have room to move forward. So, we can only imagine what’s waiting for us in the near future!

PODMarch 11, 2021
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