Digital printing is best for on-demand printing, small quantities, short-run book printing and variable data printing. Digital printing outputs each page with the ink or toner cured and ready for finishing. Offset printing uses wet inks and the printed sheets typically have to dry for a certain time period or the ink will smudge or “offset” when cutting, folding, booklet making, etc. So for your on-demand printing needs of rush orders, the best choice would be to use a digital printing company.
Offset printing is used primarily for larger quantities on printing jobs with more of a flexible timeline. This is generally a less expensive printing option because the larger the quantity, the cheaper the price. The majority of the cost involved with offset printing is the setup of the press. Once the press is set, the job can print away at 10,000 to 30,000 pages per hour.
Smaller quantities are best printed on a digital press because large printing orders typically cost less when printed offset with traditional lithographic printing equipment. A digital printing company pays the press manufacturer per click, impression or per sheet for supplies and service regardless if the press is on a lease or paid in full. So the cost for one sheet or a million is the same per piece. But on an offset press, the majority of the cost is setup time and then paper cost. Since offset printing is 5 to 10 times faster than digital printing, once the press is set for a particular job, the actual printing is completed quickly. For example, a 100,000 quantity flyer order may take 1 hour on a printing press (setup and printing) that fits 16 pages on a single large press sheet. On the other hand, it may take two days to complete such a large job on a digital press that only fits 2 pages on it’s much smaller press sheet. But for small orders, there is no paper waste for setup of digital printing equipment, and within seconds quality printed sheets are ready for finishing.
Short-run book printing is good for digital printing equipment because your files can print collated and be ready for finishing; where in the offset printing process only the front and back of a single sheet can be output per setup. Also, much more bindery and finishing is involved when printing multi-page publications on offset equipment. But there is a cross-over point in quantity when it is more cost effective to go offset vs. digital. This cross-over point involves both page count and quantity of finished books. Typically digital printing is more cost effective for quantities up to 1500. Then from 1500 to 5000 books is a limbo quantity where only specialized equipment can produce books at a decent price. Then from 5000 to millions, large web-presses (offset printing, but uses rolls of paper instead of converted sheets of paper) are best. And the higher the page count, the more setup and finishing is involved for offset printing, but stays the same for digital printing.
Finally, Variable Data Printing (VDP) is possible only on digital printing equipment. VDP takes your direct mail to a one-to-one approach and individualizes each marketing piece such as direct mail postcards, newsletters flyers, etc. Now you can personalize your digital printing with variable data images and text tailored to your customer’s needs, preferences or lifestyle. With VDP you will increase direct mail response rates, average order size, revenue and ROI. Response rates may soar to 36% from traditionally static printing response rates of 1-3%.
In summary, digital printing is the way of the future for the printing industry, but it has its limitations and uses. So now, with a bit more information of when to use a digital printing company and when to go offset, you can produce your marketing or business printing efficiently and on schedule while optimizing your return on investment (ROI).
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Source by Vladimir Medvinsky