It seems the actual inventor may be lost to time. Some sources
credit Fox Talbot, engineers at 3M, and Carl Miller. I?m sure all
mentioned sources had a hand in inventing and/or improving various
forms of the process. I have gathered several sources for you.
?It is difficult to find any information pertaining to thermography
in the archives of printing because no adequate records were kept.
However, it is known that some raised printing dates back to the
1900's. At that time thermography was considered only as a means of
obtaining novelty effects. All the work was done by hand because
automated machines had not yet been developed. A person would dust
each printed piece with resin while the ink was still wet and shake
off the excess resin. The piece would then be held over a heat source,
such as Sterno or a hot plate to melt the powder and obtain a raise.
Because of the heat involved, the process became known as "Fried
Printing". Thermography continued as a craft until around 1915, then
the first machine was developed to do the process automatically.
With the help of machinery, it now became practical for printers to
become involved. After World War II thermography started to become
popular. With more advanced machines and superior powders more
manufacturers started using the process. Today, thermography is widely
regarded as an appealing and preferred printing process that adds
prestige to any printed piece. Thermography is also now available with
a laser safe finish procedure which can be used in a laser printer or
copier without melting onto the fuser roller and transferring back
onto the sheet of paper. Thermography has come a long way since the
?The first reported photothermographic composition was disclosed by
Fox Talbot in 1847; in this case thermal development was achieved over
"?a gentle fire"! In the intervening years, a number of other
proposals for photothermographic materials have been offered, many of
them employing silver oxalate, as both the light sensitive and the
image forming component.
Practical photothermography as practiced today arrived on the market
in 1964 with introduction of 3M Dry Silver? for microfilm application.
The inventors of record were David Morgan, Ben Shely, Joseph Shepard,
and David Sorenson. Accounts of the early history of this family of
products have been provided by both Shepard1 and Morgan2. In some ways
their technology, which, as initially described, utilized silver
chloride as the light sensitive component and silver saccharin as the
thermally developable, image forming component, was an extension of a
more primitive photothermographic technology, the 3M Dual Spectrum?
process, inveneted by Wesley Workman, which grew out of the 3M
ThermoFax? products, thermographic imaging media invented by Carl
Miller, and still used to make, e.g., overhead transparencies using
?The biggest seller was the Thermofax, introduced in 1950 by
Minnesota Mining & Mfg. (3M). It was based on the thermographic
process discovered by Carl S. Miller while he was studying for a Ph.D.
in physical chemistry at the University of Minnesota in 1940. After he
obtained his degree later that year, Miller went to work for 3M, doing
research on pigments. But he continued to investigate his
thermographic copier whenever he could find time. By 1944, he had put
together a crude machine that he showed to 3M's director of research,
who was sufficiently impressed to turn Miller loose on the project
?THERMOGRAPHY. The process uses heat?sensitive paper, exposed to infrared
radiation by the REFLEX method. The process was not suitable for many dye
images that did not reflect infrared radiations (see 1896 PLAYERTYPE). The
basic principle was discovered in 1939 but was not put on the market before
1950 by 3M Company under the name 3M THERMO?FAX.?
?EICHNER DRYCOPY PROCESS. A variant form of thermographic copying. See
?In the 1940s and 1950s, several viable processes using either heat
(thermography) or light (reflectography) were marketed by a number of
firms, most notably Kodak and 3M. These small, desktop machines could
make decent copies of high-contrast originals, but they required
specially treated papers that were not only expensive per copy, but
had poor stability and often curled and deteriorated quickly.?
?Thermography was invented in the 1920s to be the "poor man's
engraving." Then, as today, engraved printing was expensive and took a
long time to produce. With thermography, you reduce the cost and
production time since an engraving die is not needed, and the
thermography process is faster.?
?Thermography, simply put, is the process of spreading resin on wet
ink, vacuuming up the excess, and sending it through a heat tunnel.
There, the resin is melted and raised. In the beginning, thermography
was produced using long, gas-fired machines. Tree resin was used to
make "thermo" powder. The thermography process had not changed much
since its invention.?
?Table top machines were developed in the 1970's which made it
easier for more print manufacturers to offer thermography as an option
for their customers. Some table top models involve mostly manual
operations to produce the thermographic images. The powdered resins
are applied to the printed sheet by hand and the excess is shaken off
the sheet. The sheet is placed in the thermographic unit which is
basically a heat tunnel. The sheet is removed and another sheet is
placed in the machine. This can be a very time consuming process and
may not be economical to use on runs over a few hundred unless a job
is printed with many images per sheet such as a business card
Thermography-?Thermography - also called raised printing.
Thermo meaning heat and graphy to write - ?heat writing?
Rosin sprinkled over freshly printed sheets.
Excess powder is removed, powder adheres to wet ink
and is subject to heat.?
?Thermographic Printing-Thermographic printing refers to two types
of printing, both of which rely on heat to create the letters or
images on a sheet of paper.
The simplest type is where the paper has been coated with a material
that changes colour on heating. This is the thermal printing in old
fashioned fax machines and can still be seen in some shop till receipt
More complex is thermographic printing that melts print off a ribbon
and onto the sheet of paper (thermal ink transfer printing). This type
of printing is used to create the raised bumpy print on expensive
business cards, the raised rubbery print on some T-shirts and the
magnetic print on cheques.?
?Thermographic Printing Systems - These systems rely on the
application of heat to form an image. Specifically, thermal transfer
systems, introduced in the late 1970's and early 80's, employ heat to
transfer colorant from a carrier to a final substrate. Each color is
transferred individually, the paper passing under the printhead three
times allowing for the transfer of cyan, magenta and yellow colorants.
There are a number of processes which fall into this broad class of
printers. The two currently investigated are only related in their use
of heat to transfer colorant.
Direct Thermal Transfer (commercially known as: thermowax)
This is an inexpensive system which produces fairly low resolution
images. A sheet of smooth paper and a donor ribbon with a
thermoplastic, wax containing ink layer, move in contact under a
thermal printhead. The application of heat through the donor ribbon
causes the ink to release and transfer onto the paper.
? The opaque thermoplastic ink has a high wax component, and under
raking light the surface looks waxy.
? The image is visibly made up of cyan, magenta, yellow and often
black dots, arranged in a pattern relating to the movement of the
There is more information, on the different types of thermographic
printing on the site. Please check the link!
?Also Known As: offset thermography | raised printing
Examples: Thermography is often used in place of the more expensive
engraving process to produce wedding invitations, business cards, and
There you go! I hope this has helped you out! Please ask for an Answer
Clarification, if anything is unclear, and allow me to respond, before
you rate this answer. I will be happy to assist you further, before
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