The advancement and growth of technology over the last decade has brought a lot of technical innovations, more options and new features to the commercial printers of today. With this new surge of technology there is always some confusion attached. An understanding of where digital printing has come from, the advantages it has today and how it compares to other methods of printing, is critical in making the right choice when it comes time to click that print button.
Today, the most common high volume commercial printing technology is offset lithography. In offset printing, the image that is being printed is first burned onto a plate and is then transferred (or offset) from the plate, onto a rubber blanket, and then finally onto the printing surface. The whole lithographic process works because of the properties of oil and water and how they interact together.
The image that is being printed gets the ink from the ink rollers, while the non-print areas attract a thin film of water, allowing those areas to stay ink-free. With offset lithography you get a nice, crisp image but there are many mechanical steps that are required to get the final product and that can be tiresome.
Digital printing eliminates a lot of those mechanical steps that are required for conventional printing, including making the films and color proofs, putting the pieces together and making plates. This results in a very streamlined process when it comes to printing. It also allows every print to be exactly the same as the printer does not have to balance the flow of ink and water during the press run.
There are many advantages that digital printing has over the competition and it is all based around the fact that it is more convenient and accessible for everyday printing. It is cheaper, lower volume printing but while each piece may cost more then offset printing, when setup costs are introduced as well, printing digitally provides a much lower cost per unit for very small runs. Another advantage is the variable data printing ability, which is a form of customizable printing where using information from an external file or database allows text and graphics to be changed on each piece without slowing down the printing process. This type of printing is primarily used for advertising, customer relations and direct marketing and can speed up the entire process.
With so much advancement in commercial printing it is easier then ever to print out our favorite photos, reports and birthday cards and the development of printing digitally is the reason.