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Hybrid Production : Mix and Match Printing

February 2011 By Mark Smith
Technology Editor
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Hybrid print production, or the integration of digital and offset printing, can take multiple forms and be defined in different ways. Examples include digital imprinting of preprinted offset shells, running inkjet heads in-line with a web offset press or binding line, and building a common workflow for processing files output to a digital press and computer-to-plate system. While the concept may not be new, printers are finding ways to put a new spin on it.

MSP Digital Marketing, headquartered in New Canaan, CT, is making imprinting of static shells new again by inverting the usual workflow. The company recently added a Presstek 52DI-AC digital offset press to its all-digital press arsenal, which includes HP Indigo and Xerox iGen digital color presses. Part of its motivation was the ability to image variable data on blank sheets and then run them through the DI to print the static elements and apply a coating to add gloss and protection.

Jonathan Fogel, one of four partners, says the digital aspect of the press is what made the Presstek a fit for the company's DigitalXPress operation in Rockaway Township, NJ. "MSP was started with the specific objective of not being a traditional printing company," he explains. "We're working as a resource for our clients to help them figure out the right way to communicate their messages in a digital format. We're really not defining ourselves as printers, per say, any more."

Playing the Shell Game

DigitalXPress now has the capability to run variable data in one color, potentially even on its HP Indigos, and then add full-color static elements on the DI, thereby saving click charges, Fogel points out. In addition, its sister company, TecDoc Digital in Hudson, MA, already has black-and-white variable data imprinting capabilities that can be leveraged. Similar capabilities are also under consideration for the New Jersey plant, he adds.

While the company's specialty is very targeted, highly variable pieces of communication in specific vertical markets, its clients also have a need for static printing. Doing that work on an all-digital press isn't necessarily the most efficient solution, Fogel asserts. "We have a couple of clients that have (short-run, static) work available that's a perfect fit for the DI."

Another aspect of MSP's digital foundation is having a common workflow that extends not only across press platforms, but also across plants. Jobs, or portions of them, can be transferred between plants to take advantage of their different production capabilities and for load balancing, Fogel notes. The New Jersey facility also has a common pressroom, with the Presstek DI alongside the HP Indigos, and the operators are being cross-trained.



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