In vs. off (line) — A "Fight" to the Finish
"Whether a printer uses off-line or in-line finishing depends on the type of 'tricks' it wants to perform," Markovich reports, explaining that tricks include "extensive, equipment-intensive finishing applications such as diecutting pressure-sensitive labels, kiss-cuts, labeling and onserting, as well as digital or direct imaging products."
"Printing personalized names and messages takes time," he says. "Those systems don't run very fast compared to the press, so you want to do personalization off-line. Imaging speeds might be at a maximum of 1,000 fpm vs. in-line press speeds as high as 2,000 fpm or better. So why install a costly imaging system in-line? It will only hold up your press."
Since various finishing functions can slow press speeds, Markovich says the more finishing a printer does, the more he's apt to consider an off-line system.
"Simple products—those that require only simple folding, simple perfs, simple cutting, etc.—are done in-line for speed. More complex products are done off-line. When you want speed: in-line. When you want complexity, creativity, the tricks: off-line," Markovich says.
High, value-added finishing vs. speed and volume: That's the major difference between using in-line or off-line systems, he emphasizes. But describing the differences in the two technologies is not the same as pointing out the pluses and minuses.
Below, Markovich gives a thumbs-up (advantages) and thumbs-down (disadvantages) critique of the processes.
In-line: Can finish at full press speeds for high-volume products that require only simple finishing.
Off-line: More complicated finishing is done at slower speeds. However . . .
Off-line: At slower speeds, complicated finishing can be done at the appropriate speed for each finishing application.
Off-line: Personalization and other value-added products, which are used for direct mail (a booming market!), are the most complicated—but also the most profitable finishing applications.
In-line: For every press, there has to be an in-line finishing system. If you have four presses, you need to have four in-line systems.