Digital printing has come a long way. Back in the early 1990s, when it was just becoming a “thing,” it had some big challenges. First, it was rare. Burned by waterless printing, stochastic screening, and other ideas that didn’t live up to their hype, few shops were early adopters. Then, there were the hassles with special papers, coatings, and ink/toner reproduction. And finally, many buyers thought that it simply had a “fake” look to it. Still, digital printing had its place. And writing your customers’ names in clouds was pretty darn cool — even if it had nothing to do with the project at hand.
Today’s digital printing customers don’t have to worry about such things. Quality is good, ink technologies are refined, and you can print on just about anything! Plus, with 100% variable data — and the ability to tie it into analytics and customer relationship management (CRM) tools — digital printing can be harnessed for some of the most cost-efficient and effective marketing promotions.
Digital printing is exciting. And the excitement around it has led to more and more companies offering some sort of “digital print” service. Indeed, from your print partner to your agency, to your office supply store and shipper, everyone has “digital print” for your pressing challenges. Thus, there are many types of digital printing. Each one too has its place. Let’s take a look at the most common:
Coloring Copying — The most basic type of digital printing, color (or black and white) laser output is still its most popular form. A step beyond personal desktop printing, this classification spans high-volume business replication (i.e., Canon and Ricoh) through copy shop work. While such prints can be good enough for a proof, they are typically limited to 20# bond or 60# offset of whatever brand your supplier is carrying. Plus, you are stuck with standard 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17 sizes. Non-specific reports or booklets often go this route, as do simple color prints. For marketers, however, this isn't ideal, as it requires mounting of color copies to other substrates, providing only a quasi-representation of a mailing or promotion. Additionally, price per unit is fixed, so you don’t get great breaks at higher volumes.
Toner-based Digital Printing — The next level up includes a number of machines. For black-and-white printing, the Xerox DocuTech™ or DocuPrint™ are among the most popular. Both print higher resolution than copiers and are typically faster (around 100 sheets per minute). Both are great options for short-run, one-color documents of 100 pages or less, such as book interiors, 10-K reports, and the like.
For color, there’s more Xerox models, ranging from the Nuvera™ to the Versant™ to the iGen™ (and their respective models), as well as the Kodak NexPress™. These technologies offer a broader range of stock sizes/weights and high-definition resolutions up to 2400 x 2400, depending on the specific press. With the iGen4™ Diamond Edition and iGen™ 150, you can specify standard sheetfed fare (glass, matte, dull, etc.) as well as synthetics, labels, NeverTear, and DuraPaper™, and coat them all offline.
While these systems can help you bring cost-efficiencies to short-run direct mail programs, test campaigns, or even “raised ink” promotions, they fall short in true color matching. This makes them a tough call for branding materials. Additionally, some prints still deliver a “toner look,” which may not be sufficient for high-end marketing. Stock choices can minimize these effects. Make sure to discuss them with your print partner.
Best-in-Class Digital Printing — If you’re looking for the best in commercial digital printing, look no further than the HP Indigo. Recognized for its wide range in color matching (up to 7 colors, including the entire PMS gamut), and amazingly smooth “Electroinks,” the HP Indigo is the closest possible digital comparison to offset. Additionally, Indigo’s nine models — including the new HP Indigo 50000 — provide for reproduction on over 3,000 certified substrates at production sizes of up to 112 x 74 cm. Thus, facilities with the Indigo tend to offer greater print quality, better cost-efficiencies with various sizes, and more creative output opportunities. This makes it perfect for any application and customer.
Digital printing continues to grow, and the above are just a few options. Knowing the variety of tools available will help you spec the right one for your next job.
Need a sample of the different types of digital print output? Want to run a specialty stock test on our iGen or Indigos? Call Digital Lizard at 702.852.3400 or click below.
™DocuTech, DocuPrint, Nuvera, and Versant are trademarks or registered trademarks of Xerox Corporation.
™NexPress is a trademark of Kodak.