Sheetfed Offset, Web Offset, Digital : Defining Crossover Points
Finishing: A toner-based digital press yields dry, ready-to-process sheets a printer can take to the bindery or finish in-line while his still-wet offset sheets are sitting on a skid. This cedes the advantage to digital over the longer run if this time savings is critical to the job.
Print quality: The fact that a multicolor offset press (CMYK-plus) is built to handle spot colors, whereas many digital production presses can only approximate them from four-color builds, tends to favor offset in smaller quantities where quality requirements are strict.
For our purposes here, we refer mainly to four-color offset and digital printing, rather than to offset using four-plus colors to expand the color gamut of the press. Except in special cases, and depending on the job in question, many printers and end users could make the case that differentiation based on quality is, by now, largely academic.
Press scheduling and capacity utilization may trump the decision-making process altogether. If its digital capacity were completely utilized, for example, a company likely would not waste its time estimating, but would run the job on an offset press. If it had open time in both departments, however, a company might estimate a job both ways, ultimately making a decision based not on the cheapest way to go, but on what's best for the client and for the company in terms of turnaround and workflow.
By the Numbers
Sandy Alexander is a printer whose services portfolio ranges from one-to-one marketing to multimillion-dollar direct mail and ad insert marketing campaigns for agencies, designers and marketers servicing the automotive, luxury, financial, pharmaceutical and retail industries. The company's extensive capabilities include both web and sheetfed offset presses, in-line finishing and inkjet imaging, digital marketing solutions, and an array of digital and electronic media services.