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Complementary Future of Offset, Digital Printing to Be Seen at Drupa

December 2, 2011 By Andrew Tribute
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Today it is becoming much more common to find printers using more than one printing technology. In most cases, this means adding cut-sheet digital printing to complement a predominantly offset printing operation. Doing so enables offset printers to profitably handle very-short-run work and also to get into new markets where offset printing is not appropriate. This includes business-to-consumer applications, such as photo books, and also doing variable data printing for one-to-one marketing/direct mail and even adding Internet-based services.

For the conventional offset printer, what one finds, however, is the normal mode of operation is for the offset and digital technologies to be run separately using different workflows and for the decision about which printing technology to use being made at the time of quoting for the job, rather than at the time of production.

The trend in the future, as we will see at Drupa 2012 from May 3-16, 2012, will be for much of the work to be done using a common workflow and for the output technology to be selected at the time of production. For this to happen, the output from the two printing technologies must look the same in terms of both image quality and color compatibility.

In the launch this year of Heidelberg’s partnership with Ricoh at digi:media in Düsseldorf, the common workflow and color compatibility was a principal theme of the Heidelberg message under a marketing term called HEI Flexibility. This was shown in a demonstration of production of a marketing package for a golf event in which the different items in the package were printed using offset and digital printing, with the look of the different outputs being near identical.

Drupa 2012 Tribute Heidelberg golf
[+] click to enlarge
The work was all driven from Heidelberg’s workflow with common color management. The work shown also linked in Heidelberg’s digital inkjet packaging press in the same workflow, plus a range of Heidelberg finishing systems.

In the U.K., Heidelberg has also demonstrated how this workflow can be extended up the value chain by linking up with Cloud-based Web-to-print company Red Tie for online ordering and communication with the print buyer or specifier.

Where Digital Printing Should Fit
The Heidelberg example was a demonstration of what can be done, and today we are seeing such things happening at many printers in the industry using a range of different equipment. The use of digital printing to carry out work that would previously have been printed by offset where digital printing is a more suitable process because of the short-run nature of the work is only part of the way digital printing is complementing offset.
 
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