What are the Differences Between Digital and Offset Printing?

July 26, 2012 · Posted in Business 

Today’s commercial printing has enjoyed the growth of digital printing technology, bringing with it technical advances, more options, as well as exciting new features. Unfortunately, this growth has also brought some confusion. In order to make the right choice between digital printing and the traditional offset lithography, one must have an understanding of the differences as well as the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Offset lithography is the most common high volume commercial printing technology. In offset printing, the desired print image is burned onto a plate and is then transferred (or offset) from the plate to a rubber blanket, and then to the printing surface. The lithographic process is based on the repulsion of oil and water. The image to be printed gets ink from ink rollers, while the non printing area attracts a film of water, keeping the non printing areas ink-free.

A lot of the mechanical steps that are required in conventional printing are not necessary with digital printing. Digital printing eliminates the need for making films and color proofs, manually stripping the pieces together and making plates. So how do you know which method to use? Well that depends on what you are printing.

The following lists some of the advantages of Digital Printing: 1. Shorter turnaround. 2. Every print is the same. More accurate counts, less waste and fewer variations, due to not having to balance ink and water during press run. 3. Cheaper low volume printing. While the unit cost of each piece may be higher than with offset printing, when setup costs are included digital printing provides lower per unit costs for very small print runs. 4. Variable Data Printing is a form of customizable digital printing. Using information from a database or external file, text and graphics can be changed on each piece without stopping or slowing down the press. For example, personalized letters can be printed with a different name and address on each letter. Variable data printing is used primarily for direct marketing, customer relationship development and advertising.

Some of the advantages of Offset Printing are as follows: 1. The image quality is very high. 2. Most all surfaces can be printed on, including wood, metal, plastic and leather. 3. As the volume of printing goes up, the unit cost goes down. 4. While today’s digital presses can come close to the cost/benefit ratio offset for high quality work, they are still unable to compete with the quality and cost-effectiveness that an offset press can produce. 5. The quality of offset printing is further increased now that many offset presses are using computer-to-plate systems as opposed to the older computer-to-film work flows.

Want to find out more about digital printing, then visit The Print Group’s site on how to choose the best printing method for your needs.

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