We’ve been hearing predictions of the death of the printed page ever since the invention of the word processor. But, as we know, the digital world has yet to finish off the centuries-old stalwart of ink on paper. And, it’s not likely to. The transportive, tactile quality of a well printed piece simply can’t be equaled by the undeniable sameness of everything we consume digitally. At this point, it’s almost trite to say that print is not dying. We think it’s more instructive to look at the ways digital technologies have reshaped print, making it more versatile and affordable.
There’s no better example than the development of a whole new type of printing press that serves a growing market. Known as print-on-demand presses, they are hybrids of high quality color copiers and conventional printing presses. Like copiers, they generate images electronically from digital files. Like conventional presses, they use liquid ink (in this case, liquid toner) that sinks down into paper and creates a finished product indistinguishable from traditional offset printing. This is crucial, because it does away with the shiny, melted plastic look of even high-quality xerox copies.
These new print-on-demand presses bring together the best of both worlds. They almost entirely eliminate the costly “make-ready” phase of traditional printing—where plates have to be made separately, hung on the press, and then the press run until everything is registered and looking the way it should. And, since, on-demand presses use liquid toner, they print beautifully on many different types of paper—smooth or textured, coated or uncoated, thick or thin.
The bottom line is that, while it’s not perfect for every situation, print on demand offers a number of significant advantages over traditional offset printing—particularly when smaller quantities of a high quality piece are desired. Here are some key points about print-on-demand that are worth knowing and remembering.
You can print as few as you need. Because set-up time is drastically reduced with print-on-demand, it’s economical to print very small quantities—as many or few as you need.
The quality is as good as conventional offset printing. Even most experts would have a hard time telling if something was printed on a conventional offset press or print-on-demand equipment.
It takes variable data to a new level. Since it’s a digital process, every single copy can be different…different type, different photo…different colors…different whatever you want.
Turnaround times are usually shorter. Because jobs move on and off a print-on-demand press much more quickly, everything else—including delivery—moves faster too.
Large format pieces aren’t a problem. Print-on-demand pressed used to be able to print only relatively small sheet sizes. Not anymore. Presses able to print large-size posters are now common.
You can use almost any paper. Unlike xerox-type processes, print-on- demand works great with textured papers and coated stocks. Most presses can even handle card stock.