Digital vs. offset printing: What's best for my job?
At some point in your professional life, you're likely to find yourself at an unusual crossroads where you are asked to make a split-second decision between two things you might not necessarily have heard of before: offset and digital printing. Depending on the job, the wrong the decision could have a negative impact on the final product or could it? Read on to find out which type of printing is best suited for which kind of print job.
What is offset printing?
To this day, the main difference between offset and digital printing is the set-up and production process. Similar to the early days of book printing, offset printing uses metal plates, usually made from aluminium, to print the design onto your paper stock. This means that before the printing process can get started, the printer has to burn your image onto custom plates.
In the next step, the plates transfer the image onto a rubber film that then rolls it onto the paper. This is where offset printing gets its name, as the ink is not printed on the stock directly but via the rubber film.
Naturally, this kind of set-up process is a little more time consuming than setting up a digital print job, which is why offset printing is not the best choice for extremely time-sensitive jobs. It also doesn't leave any room for error as once the plates have been produced, there's no turning back. If you do discover a typo, the only way to correct it is a complete do-over.
However, once set up, an offset printing press runs like the wind, making it ideal for high-volume productions. Although the initial set-up cost is relatively high, the price-per-unit (PPU) for an offset print job decreases as you increase your quantities. Offset printing also allows you to print on a wider breadth of materials, including non-paper stock.
What is digital printing?
Digital printing started to gain traction in the 1990s, though back then it was mainly referred to as 'copying'. After all, its main purpose was to replicate the contents of an original document placed in the machine. Nowadays, digital printing is capable of much more than that. In fact, on many levels, it rivals traditional offset printing technologies not only by streamlining many production processes, but also in terms of printing quality.
Instead of liquid ink, like offset printers, digital presses use different types of toner. What's more, a digital printing press is fed the original file digitally so there is no need to pre-produce printing plates. This dramatically reduces your set-up costs and overall production time. However, this also means your PPU remains the same for every print. This makes digital printing a more economical choice for smaller jobs of approximately 500 units or less.
Another benefit is that digital printing also offers variable data printing (VDP), which enables you to customise details on your prints, such as names, addresses, and even images. Following the public desire for shorter and more flexible print runs, new-age printing presses can now deliver high-quality results on most paper stocks using a number of high-quality finishes in a short amount of time.
So, if you're looking to produce a high-volume job and you're not short on time to get it done, offset printing is a reliable way to get high-quality results. However, you can rest assured that the quality of your prints won't suffer when you choose digital. These days, it might just be a question of what's more economical solution for you.
Contact our experts at your local Snap Centre to learn more.