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Digital versus Offset printing

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The Print Logistics industry is undergoing continual change – if we accept that “print is not dead”, then we are told that today’s choice is either Digital or Offset printing. The reality is that there remains a role for both, and the choice is not so much “which one” but “which one is right for this job”.

Traditional Offset printing involves an inked image being transferred (or offset) via a series of rollers from a plate to a rubber blanket, then transferred to cut sheet or paper rolls. Offset is the logical choice for large volume print runs where colour accuracy is paramount and generally includes the following benefits –

• Better colour quality and accuracy (includes pantone and metallic spot colours);

• Better range of paper stocks, inks and finishing options;

• Inks are fully absorbed (sheets do not “crack” when folded); and

• Larger volumes are more cost effective (lower per unit prices).

Digital printing on the other hand involves direct printing from a digital medium using either ink jet or laser technology. With ever improving technology, in a business environment that has a reduced reliance on large generic print runs, digital print is becoming more popular, particularly in our time-poor business world.

Digital print is the preferred choice for any low volume, fast turnaround requirement, and has the following advantages over traditional offset printing –

• Quick set-up and fast turnaround (24 – 48 hours availability);

• Low set-up costs;

• Personalisation and customisation options;

• More cost-effective for smaller volumes (up to 3-5,000 copies, depending on requirements);

• Lower environmental footprint than offset, which uses large volumes of paper and ink in set-up;

• Flexibility with regards late changes and different print sizes;

• Accuracy of proofing; and

• Variable wide format printing options.

So in making the choice between Offset and Digital print, the deciding factors come down to –

• Quality,

• Volume,

• Budget, and

• Timeframe.

As with all logistical issues, your selected print service provider should also be able to offer full flexibility, a quality customer service experience and, as the actual printing is usually only one step in the supply chain process, the option of a full end-to-end print and distribution solution.

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