May 24, 2021 

The History of Videojet Printing and Coding

Videojet logo

Videojet Technologies, Inc. is a titan of the coding and marking industry. Headquartered in Wood Dale, Illinois, Videojet sells printing hardware and consumables around the globe. With 30 direct operations centers and 175 distributors and manufacturers in 135 countries, Videojet uses its international structure to sell everything from continuous and thermal inkjet printers to laser marking systems, case coders, and thermal transfer overprinters. 

Today, you can find Videojet products in countries across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. This wasn’t always the case, however. The history of Videojet printing and coding stretches back to the late 1800s. It’s filled with ownership changes, name modifications, and product shifts that reflect how printing technology has evolved over the years.

In this article, we detail the story of Videojet’s rise to prominence in the coding and marking industry.

Videojet’s Roots: The A.B. Dick Company (1880s to the 1950s)

The history of Videojet Technologies, Inc. begins long before anyone knew it as the major printing and coding brand it is today. Its roots stretch back to the late 19th century, as the enterprise’s origin is directly linked to the influential Chicago-based printing business, the A.B. Dick Company. Initially formed in the late 1800s as a lumber operation, the A.B. Dick Company found success when they minimized their wood-processing work to focus on the office supply market. The early success of the A.B. Dick Company’s office supply operation was due in large part to the Edison-Dick Mimeograph—the world’s first duplicating machine. 

Duplicating machine

The Edison-Dick Mimeograph was designed in collaboration with famed inventor Thomas Edison and was sold exclusively through the A.B. Dick Company. Consisting of a roller, flatbed tray, baseboard, and stylus, the Edison-Dick Mimeograph was able to print between 600 to 1,000 text copies within an hour.

Although sales from the Edison-Dick Mimeograph were slow initially, the machine became a roaring success, turning the A.B. Dick Company into a well-known brand in the printing industry. In the decades following, the A.B. Dick Company continuously improved upon the initial Mimeograph design by periodically releasing updated duplicating machines. These machine sales drove the company’s profits into the mid-1950s, after which other printing methods rendered Mimeograph technology obsolete.

However, this didn’t mark the end of the company’s involvement in printing. It became the launching pad for Videojet’s direct precursor, Videograph Operations.

Videograph Operations and the Emergence of CIJ Technology (1959-1979)

With Mimeograph technology becoming obsolete, then-President of the A.B. Dick Company, Albert Blake Dick III, sought out ways to keep the business at the forefront of industrial printing. To complete this mission, Dick III created a small division within the company called Videograph Operations. By creating this division, Dick III was instrumental in developing one of the most important machines in modern coding and marking—the continuous inkjet printer.

In the 1960s, Videograph Operations partnered with Stanford scientist Richard Sweet. Together, they focused on creating a machine that could print on paper without the use of complicated moving parts. They discovered that by pressurizing ink and electronically charging individual droplets, they could create a printer that would generate characters at a faster rate than was previously thought possible. After years of development, Videograph Operations, alongside the A.B. Dick Company, released the first commercial inkjet printer in the summer of 1969. 

Dubbed the Model 9600 Videojet, the printer’s release was a milestone in the modern coding and marking industry. Capable of producing 250 characters per second, the 9600 laid the foundation for continuous inkjet printing. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the A.B. Dick Company leveraged Videograph Operations to create a series of CIJ models that became staples in beverage bottling, food canning, and similar packaging industries. 

By 1980, Videograph Operations had become successful enough that A.B. Dick renamed the division Videojet Systems International and made it into an official subsidiary of the company.

International Expansion and Acquisition (1980-1999)

Throughout the 1980s, the influence of Videojet Systems in the coding and marking industry continued to rise. Companies within the food industry, automotive production, and pharmaceutical manufacturing began to use Videojet products to apply batch codes and best-by dates onto their products. To aid this expansion, Videojet hired chemists, engineers, and technicians to improve their technology and further expand their market reach. 

This trend continued into the 1990s, as Videojet obtained a larger facility to keep up with growing demand. With greater facilities came the ability to expand equipment offerings to include laser coders, thermal inkjet printers, high-resolution case coders, and more. Simultaneously, the company entered into international sales, as they started building a distribution network that stretched into Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. 

By the late 1990s, Videojet had an international sales network and a diverse product portfolio to match. 

The Latest Chapter in the History of Videojet Printing and Coding (1999-Present)

In 1999, A.B. Dick’s parent company, General Electric Co. Ltd (a United Kingdom-based company with no relation to the United States-based General Electric), began a rebranding effort. GEC renamed itself Marconi PLC and changed Videojet’s name to Marconi Data Systems, Inc. (MDS). However, this rebranding was short-lived. In 2002, Marconi PLC was bought for $400 million by Danaher Corporation. 

Under the ownership of Danaher Corporation, MDS officially changed names again—this time to its current brand, Videojet Technologies, Inc. With Danaher’s resources, Videojet Technologies experienced another period of steady growth, both in international reach and product offerings. As a result, Videojet expanded its status as a global leader within the coding and marking industry—a title that it retains to this day.

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C&M Digest Team

The C&M Digest Team is composed of experts from across the coding and marking world. Comprised of ink developers, hardware veterans, and engineers, our News Team delivers informed coverage that is always free from brand bias.

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