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FASTER, BETTER, targeted, personalized, long run capable and continuously improving quality utilized by a new breed of information providers--transactional/promotional and marketing service providers--are prime drivers of digital printing growth.

The idea that digital printing is limited to very short runs of static content material or limited runs of rather basic personalization is obsolete. The high profit dollars for print providers are in long run, increasingly complex, personalization. Long runs--sometimes in the millions on short turnaround schedules--are being produced on several different digital equipment configurations.

The most common current approach is to utilize one of two methods of hybrid printing: off-line or in-line production. Off-line production utilizes a separately printed base form or shell, which is then imprinted digitally. Digital imprinting is often done only in black, sometimes with a spot color and, in a few applications, with process color. In-line production entails a hybrid press, which usually combines offset litho-graphy and digital printing done sequentially on a single machine.

Single-pass Production
With either approach, hybrid output may feed directly into in-line finishing equipment, or it may be fed into a near-line or off-line finishing operation. However, the now emerging, long-term trend is to produce a complete piece digitally in a single pass, on full process color equipment incorporating in-line binding and/or finishing. Blank paper in; finished; addressed; colorful, personalized product out; and in the most advantageous postal discount sequence.

Printers of transactional documents--typically utility bills, credit card and bank statements, as well as invoices--are enhancing documents by adding variable color and reducing their costs with full in-line production. These documents are being converted to revenue producers by adding advertising. This combination of transaction information and promotional material has been dubbed "TransPromo" by Kodak Versamark.

Although billing statements have long included offset printed, inserted advertising, color digital printing of promotional material directly onto the statement is a relatively new twist that is becoming a key driver of digital printing growth.

Marketing service providers that first assess a marketing objective, and then assist their clients in deciding what media mix will best achieve that objective, are also relatively new types of organizations driving digital printing growth. Many of these companies have both offset and multiple digital printing devices, but they don't consider themselves printers. Their core competence is marketing strategy, and printing is just one of several media production capabilities.

Marketing service providers often develop campaigns that inter-mix electronic media and print. Digital print production is usually long run, utilizing full-color variable imaging. Recent visits to four marketing services-oriented companies with multiple digital color presses illustrate the long-run, high-volume growth trend.

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