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Typesetting Equipment

Laser Devices, line art, laser beams, printing industry, dpi

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Typesetting Equipment, devices for composing type in a form suitable for reproduction by one of the various Printing Techniques in use today. The invention of typesetting machines in the early 19th century effectively eliminated one of the great bottlenecks in the printing industry, namely, the composition of type by hand. Today, typesetting equipment is capable of producing high-quality composition in a vast number of different typefaces and a wide range of sizes, at rates determined only by the speed of human keyboard operators. Decisions regarding spacing, justification, pagination, and formatting can automatically be made by sophisticated computer programs, while manual override commands still permit human manipulation of typeset characters. Even files produced on a home or office word processor can be easily read by a typesetting device and formatted according to the specifications of a typographer.

Laser Devices

“Phototypesetting” no longer serves to describe accurately the function of the most advanced devices, frequently classified as fourth-generation phototypesetters. Typically, these machines use laser beams acting on instructions from a computer to set type, and can produce line art and halftones as well. The master characters are stored in digital form in the memory of the computer. Laser devices, like third-generation CRT typesetters, also create type (and illustrations) by raster imaging but differ in that they use a raster image processor (RIP) that directs the laser to make horizontal sweeps across the page, working from top to bottom. In high-quality digital typesetters like the Monotype Lasercomp and the Mergenthaler Linotronic, these horizontal scan lines are laid down in densities ranging from 1270 to 2540 dots per inch (dpi). At such high resolution, type rivals that of film-matrix-based phototypesetters.


Pankow, David, M.A., M.L.S.

Assistant Professor, School of Printing, Rochester Institute of Technology; Curator, Melbert B. Cary, Jr., Graphic Arts Collection.

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