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Digital Printing--On-demand Finishing Finesse

October 1998
How profitable are digital press investments? Not very—if on-demand postpress support is lacking. Finish-on-demand is just as important as its glamorous partner, as any on-demand printer can well attest.


BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO


The finishing component of on-demand digital printing is every bit as important as is the high-tech print engine that drives the most elite of digital presses. If the finishing finesse is missing, despite the best performance power of the finest digital color press, a digital print job is not only at risk of not being on-demand, but not being on time.

As more traditional offset commercial printers and short-run shops go the digital press route to facilitate faster turnarounds, on-demand finishing functionality becomes mandatory—and in-house finishing becomes an essential investment one cannot afford to overlook. While it may be economical to print limited copies digitally, these saving can easily evaporate in finishing setup time.

Consider this scenario.

A traditional, midsize commercial printer—struggling with a tight capital equipment budget—decides that investing in two high-speed, cut-sheet laser printers and a digital color press is critical to maintain a competitive edge. Allocations have been planned for the investment in the digital output devices, but what to do regarding postpress production? Although finishing support for the new purchases was examined, no decisions were made.

On the two laser printers, the commercial printer expects to do a high volume of customized physician directories for a local healthcare provider, ranging from six to 12 sheets each. On the digital color press, the commercial printer plans to output customized book covers, depending on the background of the intended recipients. The digital color press will also be marketed to bring in additional work.

What's the finishing plan?

The commercial printer considers in-line finishing for the two laser printers, but that means the purchase of two finishers, one for each printer. Off-line finishing is considered, but that equals extra labor costs. After all, how competitive can the pricing be if a new employee has to hand-feed an off-line bookletmaker?

In this scenario, the printer chooses an automated, off-line system, thinking it might be a good fit. Why? First, the capital investment is roughly half compared to in-line finishing; since this particular commercial printer is cost-conscious, this is a strong selling point. Also, independent operation means that overall up-time will be boosted; plus the system can serve as a finishing device for the operation's conventional offset press work, if it is outfitted with a collator.
 

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