Digital Finishing — Where to Draw the Line?
Views from Front Lines
Trends can, of course, be very different at the individual shop level than they are for the industry as a whole. Differences in customer bases, applications and capabilities can make one approach better suited to a particular business environment.
As president of LaVigne Inc. in Worcester, MA, Chris Wells’ perspective is that of a chief executive of a multi-press digital printing operation that also continues to be a strong player in the commercial offset segment. According to Wells, LaVigne has found that its finishing capabilities must be “quite flexible” to meet the demands in digital printing work, despite the limited format range of most presses (especially cut sheet models like the ones it has).
“In the on-demand environment, ultra-short runs are the norm. Quantities of less than five for items as complex as 36-page books are becoming more commonplace,” he explains. “Variable data projects typically involve mailing, which introduces a whole other set of issues.”
What the shop’s variable data clients are looking for most are turnaround speed, low cost and product protection, Wells says. When it comes to the latter, they want to prevent pieces getting damaged in the mail stream.
UV and aqueous coatings provide acceptable protection, but those approaches limit the ability to finish a piece in a “hybrid” production environment that includes ink-jet addressing/messaging, notes the digital printing executive. “Therefore, only a printer consistently doing full variable data applications will get maximum utilization out of these solutions. Cutting a blanket for a 500-piece mailing run that needs to go through ink-jet addressing is not fast, or cost-effective.”
Even then, LaVigne has found that UV and aqueous coatings only improve the protection factor incrementally, and clients continue to have issues. Film lamination—which is slow and costly, along with requiring that the job be 100 percent variable data printing—is the only fool proof method the shop has found for protecting digitally printed pieces (from its HP Indigo presses).