Offset to Aqueous Inkjet…the Basic Differences

Many times we see companies spending millions of dollars on high-speed aqueous inkjet equipment for billing, transactional, direct mail and various marketing material. Inkjet is a wonderful and disruptive technology that is truly a game changer in the printing market. I received an inquiry last week from a print broker who was seeking the differences in the two processes. He is seasoned in selling printed offset, but was not completely knowledgeable in the conventional processes nor high-speed aqueous inkjet.

His print producer is a conventional offset print house looking to accent its production, as well as start running short-run variable data on inkjet technology. He was particularly uneasy about inkjet. I assured him, yes, it can be very scary for sales folks whose lives have been spent selling traditional offset. But it is also an exciting time which, if understood, can be very profitable.

He understood that inkjet variable data and imaging was a great game changer, but asked “So, what’s the basic difference?” For both processes, there are two things that really affect everything…ink and paper.

Since he has focused his career on selling print and has not been on the offset process side for quite some time, we started with Differences 101.

Ink and Paper…
Traditional Offset process involves “squeezing” a layer of high-viscosity “tacky ink” to a blanket or flexible plate; then to the substrate surface. Offset ink sits higher on the paper surface, which allows more color to reflect from the surface producing a very large color gamut. Offset inks can dive into the fibers of the paper, but this condition is mostly caused by the formation of paper and not because of the offset inks. Offset ink is compatible with common coated (totally sealed) and uncoated paper grades; no special papers are needed. Drying is either cold-set (dries by absorption into the sheet), or heat-set, utilizing drying lamps.

Mary Schilling works with all the elements of the digital process-from conventional and inkjet technologies to fluids and substrates-and provides technical support to print providers on optimizing print quality while lowering total print cost. Understanding the dynamics of the digital marketplace, and the incredible growth and advancements in inkjet technology, Mary provides customers with print quality, color gamut, fluid consumption, machine and print quality analysis, utilizing G7 methodology. She also works with inkjet fluid and machine developers to align paper development of new, innovative inkjet substrates. As the owner of Schilling Inkjet Consulting, she consults with fluid and inkjet machinery suppliers and end users on how to improve color and print quality for paper, plastics, metal, fabric and glass with UV, solvent and aqueous inkjet fluids. Mary received Innovator of the Year awards from the Flexographic Technical Association and from Xplor International for her efforts in closing the gap between document printing and digital packaging. She is G7 certified and a member of the IDEAlliance Print Properties Committee.
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