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Which Print Technology Is Best For Me?

Commercial offset printing press explaining the printing technologies There are various printing technologies that printing companies employ. The question arises, how do I benefit from the technology that a printing company offers? Which technology that each printing company utilizes benefits me?

Not all of them will be of benefit to you so understanding the types of commercial printing press technologies becomes important as each will impact on your printing job in different ways and usually only one of them will benefit your particular printing job at all.

Therefore let’s review all of the major printing press technologies in order to allow you to seek the best one for your printing job.

Offset printing:

This technology is the most common form of printing press technology and is distinguished by the image first transferring to  a plate and then to a rubber blanket, and finally to the printing surface.  It was first created for the reproduction of artistic works and is now the primary process by which most things that are printed utilize. Sheet fed and web printing presses both use offset printing technology. Most books, magazines, catalogs, brochures and posters are created using the offset printing process. Therefore most of your requirements will be filled by offset printing as well.

Ink is delivered to the ink train, a duct that carries the ink to the rollers. The rollers distribute the ink to the plate and then the plate transfers the inks to the blanket which is what makes contact with the paper.

Advantages

Offset printing will offer you the following advantages.

  • Consistency of your printing materials
  • Fast and easy plating
  • Long impression rates due to long life of the plates
  • Best priced method for medium and longer runs
  • Adjustment to color and density on press

Disadvantages

Offset printing has the following disadvantages.

  • Plates cannot or should not be re-used due to oxidation
  • Set up times can be longer than pure digital and set up costs on these printing presses will be more.

Inkjet Printing:

This type of printing press takes a digital image and copy created on a computer and by propelling or jetting droplets of ink onto the paper, creates the printed material. Your desktop printer, if inkjet typifies this technology.

Advantages:

  • The quality and colors are superior to offset printing as it is a newer technology
  • It prices well for short run printing

Disadvantages:

  • It prices poorly for medium to long run printing
  • Far less paper choices come in the rolls required for inkjet printing

Laser Printing:

Laser printing technology can produce high quality graphics on either plain or coated papers.  The most common form of laser printing press is the photocopier in your office. Today, the higher end machines made by Xerox with the iGen or Canon with their iGen equivalent can produce books, magazines and catalogs of equal quality to offset printing presses. The process used to create an image on paper for this type of printing press by the commercial printer uses a laser beam to project an image onto a drum coated with selenium as a photoconductor. The drum then transfers this to paper. The Docutech printing press is the black only equivalent of this laser technology. Both the color and black only versions are duplex printers, printing both sides of the sheet at the same time and collating them as well at the end of the printing press process.

 Advantages:

  • The newer machines can equal commercial offset printing in quality
  • For short run commercial printing the small runs can equal web printing for unit pricing

Disadvantages:

  • It prices poorly for medium to long run printing
  • It must use only smooth paper or gloss paper stocks, thus eliminating many eclectic stocks as felts, linens etc.
  • The Docucolor version cannot accept coatings or film lamination without problems due to the fuser oil used

Indigo Printing:

 The indigo printing press was an Israeli invention that is an offset printing process. The Indigo printing press has seven ink fountains and therefore is capable of printing process and Pantone inks symiltaneosly. It does not use film nor plates and is a true digital printer as is the inkjet and laser printing presses. It is a perfect press for short run as it can offer you an exact replication of what you would expect on an offset printing press. It therefore is a great printing press to produce your magazines or catalogs for the short run or for prototypes prior to the mass run as it will look the same.

Advantages:

  • High quality and equal to offset printing
  • For short run commercial printing the end product will appear as the long run ones.

Disadvantages:

  • Most expensive digital printing process and best used for prototypes
  • Must use custom coated papers, making for a more expensive product and with limited paper choices.

These are your modern choices of printing press technologies and I hope this information allows you to make the best choice as to which one best suits your project. All of them are suitable for magazine printing, book printing, catalog printing, brochures and more. The smaller presses are of course limited in size, so you will not be able to produce large posters or presentation folders on the Indigo, or laser press nor the inkjet printing press, not because of size but because of limited paper choices.

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