Printers Share Crossover Points for Running Shorter-Run Static Print Jobs Offset vs. Digital
"The other thing that comes into play…digital may be a more cost-effective platform, but the sheer number of man hours needed may push us onto (offset) press. We do a fair amount of pretty high page count work. We may do 600 copies of a book that's 700 to 800 pages long. At that point, you're quickly up into that half-million pages. It becomes almost impossible to do that on a cutsheet digital machine, just from the sheer number of hours."
Heslin believes digital printers get a bad rap. For instance, one publisher's rep once declared that he did not want Seaway to run any of its jobs digitally, because the customers wouldn't be satisfied with the quality. But since the publisher hadn't stipulated as such previously, digital is exactly what that client had been receiving. "We find the quality that comes off our Nuvera—as long as the machine is properly maintained—is equal to offset, in most cases," Heslin adds.
He estimates the general digital/offset tipping point to be in the 1,200 range, a few hundred more than a general commercial printer would estimate due to factoring in the finishing needs of publishing clients. Heslin has bounced from one method to the other within the same project, depending upon the run count.
One printer's disdain for digital has earned him unique distinction and extra business. C&S Press, of Orlando, FL, decided not to take the digital plunge after securing a four-color, 20˝ Heidelberg SM 52 Anicolor with coater in 2009. Since the Anicolor is capable of profitably running jobs in the 500-plus range, company President Frank Tantillo decided to forego obtaining a digital complement.
Instead, Tantillo has hammered out co-venture agreements with digital print shops, sending them all the work under 500 copies. In exchange, C&S' partners have been sending along a healthy amount of offset work.