Commercial printing is one of the markets where the transition from offset to digital is breaking through with more force. The quality and competitive price of the technology have made this change increasingly viable. Besides, its rapid progress offers new applications in the short term. This makes this type of printing a vital strategic option for commercial printers looking to position themselves for the future.
From traditional to digital printing
In 2015 digital advantages of printer accounted for 13.9% of all print and packaging in value terms, but only 2.5% in volume terms. Both value and volume have increased over the years – and the transition between analog and digital is accelerating. By 2020, it is estimated that digital printing will have 17.4% of the value and 3.4% of the volume of all printing and packaging. The digital offer is growing as it offers advantages that analog printing cannot provide. Variable data in transactional and direct mail was introduced in the 1970s, but as digital color presses came to market, early drivers dropped in price for short runs.
Advertising and imaging print has a higher proportion of digital print than packaging and publishing, such as books. This transition from traditional to digital print, now located in commercial printing, will be driven by continuous technological developments. Printing technology is also evolving analog processes; but the biggest developments are taking place in the digital area – and particularly in ink, which is receiving the largest Research and Development (R&D) investment in printheads, inks and various systems.
Based on this pace of change, today there are several incentives – which will soon become urgent needs – for companies in the commercial printing sector to integrate digital printing into their offerings. A 2015 survey by Smithers Pira found that of 200 print service providers surveyed globally, more than 60% use digital and analog equipment, and 13% use exclusively digital.
The possibility of creating
Users of this digital technology areinnovating in applications, and exploring new ways to offer printing features and upgrades to customers in a “Premium” way. Creativity is reflected in the growing number of systems that, in addition to CMYK colors, already offer fifth color station capability, such as white or light toners, and special effects while also supporting a wide gamut. of substrates. By the year 2020, fifth station units will be widely available and special effects will be used frequently in commercial print products. For example, there are specialized inkjet-based coating equipment that provides digital embellishment on commercial jobs. These options allow companies to surprise their customers with a valuable offer. For the metallic effects a metallic foil is used which is printed with transparent inks before the varnish is applied. This results in a 3D look. It can also be printed in an unlimited range of colours.
Towards digital diversification
Undoubtedly, the use of digital printing to mimic traditional printing is not the best practice to maximize this technology. The true leaders in this field are now delivering very high quality results with innovative products and content that customers value.
The reliability and quality of digital prints have improved over time, while electrophotography has grown as analog print companies add digital equipment to production capabilities. This allows printers to offer more and better services. to his clients. Simultaneously, new applications have been tested and supported by the development of specialized digital finishing systems, which enable accelerated inkjet.
In previous years, the printing industry has had the perception that digital printing is not offering the quality necessary to support this transition. This perception of digital capability does not reflect the reality of the new generation of electrophotography and inkjet equipment entering the market in 2016 and this year. It is also clear that many buyers are also not understanding the real situation. However, digital printing has seen rapid and widespread adoption across a wide variety of graphic applications; including stationery, greeting cards, menus, games, art reproductions, CDs, DVDs and calendars.
Connecting with digital workflows.
Today, all aspects of printing – from concept design, artwork creation, approvals, prepresses, printing, binding, storage and delivery – are computerized and linked via the Internet. This allows many individuals to collaborate remotely as processes are simplified and accelerated by specialized workflow platforms. There are various systems on the market – usually modular and automated tools – designed for printers, publishers, packaging companies and advertising agencies. These perform repetitive tasks such as receiving, sorting, and processing files automatically.
In printing companies, these systems help manage file receipt and preflight, color management, optimization, imposition, raster image processing (RIP), printing, and finishing. These typically use a standardized description format (JDF) to link to device production and information management systems (MIS); and also integrate it with databases for information storage, delivery and billing. Automating tasks standardizes processes, reduces errors and frees up resources, saving time and money. Resources designated for staff can be reallocated to activities that add additional value – such as customer service, creative work, marketing and sales opportunities – or simply focus on the main areas of work. Advances in workflows are mainly based on the existence of greater connectivity throughout organizations.
New upgrades include project management tools that trigger alarms and pre-set corrective actions and remote logging capabilities, allowing employees to manage print options efficiently and on the fly. These changes allow for more dynamic and highly automated jobs in a global environment, with centralized prepress across multiple plant operations or between customers and their printers.
The transition from offset to digital printing is accelerating, and companies that don’t upgrade will be left behind for years to come. In the commercial printing sector in particular, the versatility of digital printing means that an increasing number of jobs can be handled by new systems.
This aligns with trends in the short-run print industries and the need to offer greater print benefits. Digital printing has reduced set-up times to match the demands. In addition, ongoing developments are breaking down the barriers of quality, primary toner, and ink, making it an increasingly indistinguishable option from offset-printed jobs.
These issues were identified as key motivators for investing in digital equipment according to the Smithers Pira survey. This has been complemented by digital decorative options – including white and clear toners, lacquer built-in tactile functions, metallic effects and glossy stations. This is enabling print companies to add more value to their jobs, maintaining competitive growth across a wide range of commercial jobs. The current trend is to improve all digital platforms – highlighting its importance for the future of commercial printing.