Despite the current online boom, there comes a time when every business needs to turn to print. From instruction manuals to product information, eventually, something is going to need to be printed in bulk. When that time comes, there’s always the inevitable question: should I use digital printing or offset printing? Digital and offset are the two most common printing technologies, and while both will get the job done effectively, there are benefits and drawbacks to both depending on your timeframe, desired quantity, and printing needs. In this article, we’re going to discuss the differences and advantages of digital printing over offset printing.
Advantage 1: Digital printing has a quicker turnover time
When it comes to speed, the main factor is the printing process itself. While offset printing presses can print mass quantities faster, it requires more setup time than digital printing. Because offset printing utilizes a plate and press technique, each plate has to be etched specifically to the printed design before the printing process can begin. Offset printing also requires additional waiting for the printed product to dry. And after the printing is finished, there is a necessary cleanup process between each job before a new design or order can be printed. This is why offset printing isn’t recommended for businesses that need a short turnover or multiple print jobs.
On the other hand, digital printing is near-instantaneous, with no lengthy or labor-intensive set-up process, and it uses dry ink that is product-ready as soon as it’s finished printing.
Advantage 2: Digital printing is less expensive on short to medium runs
If businesses anticipate a large run, the more economical choice is offset printing. While the setup fee can be pricey, the price is eventually negated by the price per piece rate. When offset printing in bulk, the price diminishes the more pieces printed due to the mass printing rate of offset presses. If businesses anticipate a short to medium run, though, the setup fee might not be worth the price per piece. Digital printing is typically recommended for companies looking to print fewer than 5,000 pieces at one time, depending on the dimensions and number of pages/originals.
Advantage 3: Short to medium runs are less risky
Alongside its affordability, digital printing is known to have a lower required minimum quantity. Having the option to run only short to medium runs reduces the risk of losing or wasting product. For some industries, such as medical device and pharmaceutical companies, printing long runs and in bulk, can introduce a high risk of manufacturing a product soon to be rendered obsolete. Due to strict regulations and frequently revised guidelines, companies that print instructional manuals, informational booklets, product inserts, and other printed product information, like medical device IFUs, will have to change their printed product more frequently, rendering the old product unusable. Running a short to medium run introduces less risk and minimizes budget waste.
Advantage 4: Digital printing has variable data capability
Variable data printing is the ability to print a product with elements that can change from one piece to the next. This opens up the ability to customize and personalize your product towards your audience. This is a common practice in the medical and pharmaceutical industries and can be seen used in IFU booklets, medicinal labels, and direct mail in which personal information is needed. Because offset printing uses physical plates to print, it’s unable to vary the data being printed. Digital printing, alternatively, can print on demand without the need for a permanent, unchangeable plate and is able to change elements as it prints.
Advantage 5: Booklet printing
For businesses that require booklet printing (for products such as brochures, informational packets, instructional manuals), digital printing is a cheaper, faster, and more economical choice. With offset printing, for each page of the booklet, a new plate will need to be etched and inked for each page, leading to a time-consuming and expensive printing process. Digitally printing booklets can be printed quickly and simultaneously, without the need for a complicated setup.
Advantage 6: With digital printing, you can print on demand
Because the process of offset printing is so lengthy, it’s better to buy in bulk and store for later use when needed. With digital printing, businesses only have to print what they need, exactly when they need it. That is very beneficial for lowering upfront and startup printing costs and reducing the burden of excess products. It is also a prime example of lean manufacturing, a set of principles that create a more efficient workplace by eliminating waste, cutting costs, and optimizing existing processes.
Offset vs Digital Printing: Which is right for me?
Both offset and digital printing are widely used today. Each comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so when deciding which printing technology is right for you, it’s important to take into account what the needs and values of your business are. Factors to be considered include quantity, desired turnover rate, and whether or not your product needs variation or customization. If you value static printing, bulk pricing, and there is little to no risk in the lifecycle of your printed product, then offset will work for you. If you have a product that needs frequent revisions, personalized data per piece, and you only want to do a short to medium run with cheaper pricing and a quick turnover rate, then digital printing is the best choice among the two.