May 7, 2015
Have you ever wondered what the fuss is about digital printing? After all printing and paper have been around for hundreds of years. But there are many considerations when it comes to printing such as the print quantity, the sort of paper to be used, the number of colors, and even the turnaround time. Since most printing is normally done by an offset process or by a digital process, it helps to know the difference, and their suitability for different applications. Being better informed will enable you to make the right decision for you business.
Offset printing, by and large, is still a more expensive option than digital printing due to the mechanics of the process involved. A large component of the cost of offset printing is the setup. It involves preparation of negative films from which positives are prepared on a metal plate. These are then mounted on to the press. However, with modern technology, this cost is being substantially reduced. Now it is possible to take a computer output and directly make a plate. The digital process does not require any equipment setup and can be initiated directly from a computer-generated input. A good example is the common desktop inkjet printer. The overheads involved in offset printing are quickly reduced when the print run is large. However, in digital printing, the cost is linear; i.e. the cost of the one print is no different from the unit cost of many prints. Thus, for large print runs that may go into the thousands, offset printing is the process of choice. Digital can become prohibitively expensive on a per unit basis.
Flexibility and Turnaround Time
Due to the steps involved, offset printing takes time to be initiated and, thus, is not preferred by people requiring a small number of prints in a hurry. However, the speed of offset printing makes it the only practical option if you need to deal with a large print run. The digital process allows for customization that can be scheduled on the computer and does not require the printer to be stopped, slowed down or re-set in any way. This means that should you want to print a hundred letters, all with different content, and personalized with the recipient’s name, address, salutation, etc., digital printing is the only option. This advantage has been used with great effect by companies sending direct mailers with the names of the addressees mentioned to create the best impact. Utilities can also send bills to their customers with details of their consumption and payment amount using this process.
Though purists remain adamant that there’s nothing to beat the quality of offset printing when it comes to reproduction of text and graphics, digital printing technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent times. Today it is possible to get digital prints that can’t be differentiated from offset prints. However, not even the greatest supporter of digital printing will advise you to give coffee table book printing assignments to a digital printing outfit. Although, you can and should be printing proof copies of the book in a digital printer to check the various design parameters.
Small businesses should have no qualms about using digital printing — the average customer will not be able to tell the difference.
Jenny Richards is a printing technologist working in the research and development cell of a prominent digital reproduction company. She advises many publishers on matters relating to coffee table book printing; a subject that is a personal passion.