The hi-tech era has witnessed the introduction of numerous innovative technologies. In every field, whether it is engineering, medical or commerce, cutting-edge technologies are being launched every now and then making our lives far easier. Printing technology has gone through a radical change over the years. Very efficient printers have been introduced that are loaded with innovative technologies.

Digital printing technology has been the latest innovation in printing technology. The digital printing technology is said to have triggered technological advancements. Present-day commercial printing has many exciting features. However, with the introduction of the digital printing technology, you may be utterly confused about which technology, the offset lithography or the latest digital technology is better and how can one be more beneficial to you than the other.

Offset Lithography: Common Choice

Offset lithography is the most commonly used high-volume printing technology. In this process the required print image is actually, burned directly onto a plate and it is thereafter, offset or transferred from the plate to the rubber blanket and finally to the printing surface. The lithographic printing process operates on the principle of the repulsion of water and oil. The picture that requires to be printed receives the required ink from the ink rollers, while a film of water is attracted by the non-printing area, ensuring that the non-printing area is ink-free. Offset lithography is the most common printing process and is also, used for coffee table book printing.

Some Plus-Points of Digital Printing

Digital printing is becoming quite popular as it is known to eliminate a number of mechanical steps associated with conventional printing processes. Some of the steps that can be left out in digital printing include making color and film proofs, stripping the pieces manually together and also, making plates. This printing process allows shorter turnaround. Every print happens to be the same. The process is known for more precise counts, fewer variations and less waste as water and ink need not be balanced during press run. Low volume printing using digital printing technology could be much cheaper.

It is true that the unit cost of every piece could be higher than the conventional offset printing, but when you include set-up costs, digital printing could offer lower costs per unit for each small print run. Another interesting form of custom digital printing is Variable Data Printing. You could now use information from an external file or database, and change graphics and text on each piece without really slowing down or stopping the press. Variable data printing is useful mostly for advertising, direct marketing and customer relationship development.

Some Plus-Points of Offset

Offset offers great image quality and is able to work on a wide spectrum of printing surfaces including wood, paper, metal, cloth, rough paper, leather and plastic. Offset printing offers countless options that can be overwhelming even on quite simple jobs. In offset printing, it has been established that the unit cost is supposed to come down, when the quantity actually goes up. Offset printing ensures cost effectiveness and unmatched quality in high volume tasks. The digital presses could be cost-effective, but cannot think of generating the same volume which an offset press can definitely produce. The digital printing technology is able to generate high quality work, but is in no position to compete with the volume at which an offset printing can produce.

Coming to a Decision

You may need this checklist for taking a suitable decision. If you are confused regarding which printing technology to use for your products, simply refer to this checklist.

  • Consider the Quantity: Offset printing is said to have front-end cost load. As such short runs may prove to be more expensive as far as per unit cost is concerned. But with the increase in quantity the unit cost is said to go down. On the other hand, digital printing could prove to be more cost-effective with very short runs. Larger quantities in all probability would have a lower cost per unit in case of offset printing.
  • Take into Account the Printing Medium:  If you require a special kind of finish, or paper or some unusual printing surface or may be a unique size then digital printing would be more viable. However, you must remember that offset printing is known to be most flexible.
  • Turnaround: Digital offers definitely quicker delivery in comparison to offset.
  • Color: Offset is best for Pantone® Matching System as it uses the authentic Pantone® ink. Digital printers may end up giving less precise color matching on your projects.
  • Proofing: Digital is known to come up with accurate proofs, but accurate color proofing could prove to be very expensive in offset printing.
  • Customization Capability: Digital printing undoubtedly, is the most appropriate technology to use for customization as it is the most cost-effective way of customizing direct mail pieces, marketing materials, letters etc.

While choosing the most appropriate printing technology, consider the above checklist for great results.