As the 19th century closed and became popular, many lithographic firms went out of business. , a process that used technology instead of illustration, became the primary aesthetic of the era. Many printers, including Ira Washington Rubel of , were using the low-cost lithograph process to produce copies of photographs and books. Rubel discovered in 1901—by forgetting to load a sheet—that when printing from the rubber roller, instead of the metal, the printed page was clearer and sharper. After further refinement, the Potter Press printing Company in produced a press in 1903. By 1907 the Rubel offset press was in use in .
One of the most important functions in the printing process is production. This stage makes sure that all files are correctly processed in preparation for printing. This includes converting to the proper , finalizing the files, and creating plates for each color of the job to be run on the press.
Web-fed refers to the use of rolls (or “webs”) of paper supplied to the printing press. Offset web printing is generally used for runs in excess of five or ten thousand impressions. Typical examples of web printing include newspapers, newspaper inserts or ads, magazines, direct mail, catalogs, and books. Web-fed presses are divided into two general classes: (or ), and offset web presses; the difference being how the inks that are used dry. Cold web offset printing dries through absorption into the paper, while heatset utilizes drying lamps or heaters to cure or “set” the inks. Heatset presses can print on both coated (slick) and uncoated papers, while coldset presses are restricted to uncoated paper stock, such as newsprint. Some coldset web presses can be fitted with heat dryers, or ultraviolet lamps (for use with UV-curing inks). This can enable a newspaper press to print color pages heatset and black & white pages coldset.
Web offset presses are beneficial in long run printing jobs, typically press runs that exceed ten or twenty thousand impressions. Speed is a determining factor when considering the completion time for press production; some web presses print at speeds of 3,000 feet per minute or faster. In addition to the benefits of speed and quick completion, some web presses have the inline ability to cut, perforate, and fold.