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Litho & Digital – A Complementary Mix
By Andrew Tribute
Printers are increasingly using more than one technology with sheet fed digital often complementing offset. This allows offset operations to profitably handle short run work and enter new markets like business to consumer photobooks, variable data printing, direct mail and even Internet based services. In the main the technologies are run separately using different workflows with the printing technology used chosen at the time of quoting. At drupa 2012 the trend will be for a common workflow and the print technology selected immediately before production.
To provide a high quality service it is essential output from the two technologies looks the same, both in image quality and colour compatibility. Also workflow will link up with Cloud based web to print technology for online ordering and communication.
While digital suppliers have been matching four-colour offset printing in quality and colour reproduction, allowing printers to provide a more complete service and stay profitable, offset technology developers have continued to improve efficiency for shorter runs. In fact some digital printers are investing in offset - often DI - to handle a wider range of work as they can be run almost like digital presses. Sheet fed digital printing developments have focussed on high productivity presses with mid volume and light production enjoying additional functionality.
The key for the printers is to be able to offer a wide range of integrated services and products through enhancing workflow and delivering accessibility to a wider range of customers. Web to print software and integrated workflow can improve efficiency and broaden markets. Particularly specialised is software to optimize the loading and scheduling of work on the press.
Another trend is leading offset press suppliers entering the digital marketplace raising a question over the future of offset. It will remain the major element but, without digital printing and automated Internet based workflows, customers will move away from offset centric suppliers.
The show will be the “Digital drupa” built around transformation to a multiple media communications industry spearheaded by new digital workflow and printing technologies.