Digital printing does not use printing plates the way that conventional offset does, but instead uses toner. In conventional offset ink is put on paper and the ink is absorbed into the paper. In digital printing the toner sets on the paper and is not absorbed into the paper. This gives a different look to the printed piece and often digitally printed pieces has a brighter color. Digital printing is usually used for smaller quantities. We usually run up to 10,000 on our digital press but if it goes over that quantity, we move it to an offset press.
A big benefit of using the digital printing is the variable data capabilities. Variable data printing is a form of on-demand printing in which elements (such as text, numbers, graphics, etc.) can be changed from one printed piece to the net, without stopping or slowing down the press, using information from a database. For example, a set of personalized letters, each with the same basic layout, can be printed with a different name and address on each letter. At Burns, we can print and address double-sided postcards on one pass of the press. When we personalize a letter we add a bar code on the back of the letter and our smart inserter can then read the bar code on the back and insert the letter into a non-window envelope. This is like a hand match without the expense of a hand match.
Advantages of digital printing
- Setup costs are lower for short runs (up to 10,000)
- Print only the amount you need, when you need it
- Lower minimum quantities (as low as 1,20 or 50 pieces)
- Inexpensive black and white digital printing
- Improved technology has made digital quality acceptable for more uses.
One thing that the buyer needs to be aware of is that if you print a small quantity on the digital press and then decide on a larger quantity that requires the printing job to be put on an offset press, the two jobs will not look the same because of what I described above, ink being absorbed into the paper and ink setting on top of the paper. They will both be quality printed jobs but will not have the same look.