Digital Printing--On-demand Finishing Finesse
"Right now, I don't do any finishing in-line. I just feel that off-line quality is better, especially for on-demand work. But that's not to say that I can't change my mind—in fact, there are some good systems out there," Tiner states. "Right now, my customers don't require in-line finishing, so I'm in no rush to bring it into my operation."
On any given day, TechniGraphix's on-demand printing operation can get an order for 500 books, needed in less than 48 hours.
"On-demand printing and finishing aren't for the faint of heart," Tiner states, in all seriousness. "We run the finishing operation as we do the digital printing operation—constantly, nonstop, total production."
Quite a juggling act, indeed.
Facilitating Digital Printing's Finishing Touch
In all of the excitement surrounding print-on-demand, special finishing requirements are often overlooked. In part, this is because printers have for some time been producing very short runs with conventional offset presses, with very quick turnarounds.
But what happens when traditional printers make the leap into short-run digital imaging—either black-and-white, high-speed laser or digital color—and the printing of customized, variable information?
Substantial adjustments must be made to finishing facilities serving on-demand printing operations.
- In-house finishing is essential because the average printer cannot afford to send the work to a trade bindery and then wait for the job to return. If the work involves variable data, every set is an original and there is no overage. Printers are reluctant to entrust this work to an outside bindery because there is no tolerance for setup waste.
- Quick setup and changeover are mandatory because short-run economics don't permit excessive breakdown or setup times. While it may be economical to print just one copy digitally, these saving can easily evaporate in finishing setup time.
- Accuracy of setups is critical. Every book, from the first one off the press, must be of salable quality. There's no room for makeready spoilage, especially on personalized, customized work. For setups to be dead-right the first time, finishing equipment must be engineered to tight manufacturing tolerances.