The Commercial Printing Inkjet Opportunity
Across the printing industry, challenges such as cost-effectively producing short runs, delivering on fast turnaround times, and offering personalized communications — all while providing high-quality results — have led commercial printers to explore digital production printing solutions. As use of digital print technology continues to spread throughout the industry, high-speed production inkjet presses have emerged as an ideal solution to these top-of-mind printing challenges.
In an industry largely defined by production efficiency, inkjet’s ability to run faster than competing digital technologies — producing greater output volumes at a high quality — has commanded the attention of commercial printers seeking a more optimized workflow. Despite these advantages however, production inkjet technology is comparatively new in the world of commercial print, and companies that have adopted the technology are gaining a leg up on the competition.
For example, when Bridgeport National Bindery, a book printer in Agawam, Massachusetts, recognized that its sheetfed offset equipment was not providing the efficiency it needed for short-run production, the company turned to roll-fed inkjet, improving its workflow and opening growth opportunities.
“With high-speed inkjet, we can do things we only dreamed about previously,” Bruce Jacobsen, the company’s VP, says.
Inkjet Advantages Across Applications
In addition to books, other high-end publications that are produced on continuous feed inkjet platforms can take advantage of the technology’s ability to provide variable data and print on a wide variety of available stocks.
Meanwhile, direct mail, which is largely predicated on fast turnaround times, is an ideal application for high-speed inkjet printing. While personalization of printed communications has proven to be a highly-effective marketing approach, personalizing direct mail with digital printing is especially advantageous, providing a one-to-one touchpoint between a brand and its customer.
Even in transactional document printing, inkjet technology has enhanced how end-users interact with statements, invoices, and other printed components. With the ability to provide targeted messaging and increase the quantity of color on these documents, inkjet has brought new life to what had been a largely static collection of applications.
In addition to inkjet’s ability to produce a variety of applications effectively and efficiently, its ease of use and digital nature is also highly advantageous in addressing one of the most pressing issues in the commercial printing industry. Across seemingly every segment, a shortage of skilled labor has put printers in a bind, as the pandemic exacerbated the existing concern of press operators aging out of the industry. In addition to being an attractive technology for younger workers, continuous feed inkjet’s heavily automated process provides labor savings in prepress, printing, and finishing.
Outdated Inkjet Myths and Today’s Inkjet Reality
While inkjet printing’s history can be traced back to the 1950s, production inkjet technology didn’t fully appear on the scene until the 1990s. Since its introduction to the industry, advancements in inkjet technology have led to its evolution as an efficient, reliable, cost-effective, and high-quality solution. Despite the many benefits inkjet printing delivers, some common misconceptions remain.
For example, the phrase “offset quality,” is commonly used throughout the commercial printing world as the gold standard of graphic reproduction. But offset printing is hardly the only technology that can achieve pristine print quality, with several production inkjet systems hitting the market that can provide photographic imagery.
The SCREEN Truepress platform is an example of a production inkjet system that can print at a 1,200 dpi resolution, with drop sizes as small as two picoliters. Additionally, the Truepress platform offers variable-drop print heads and expanded ink sets that can exceed what is achievable by CMYK printing.
Another common misconception is that inkjet printing limits users to a narrow selection of substrates. Developments in both paper and inks enable commercial printers to use an extensive variety of coated and uncoated stocks. These developments have allowed commercial printers to run their inkjet equipment in tandem with their offset presses, providing comparable products from both a visual and tactile perspective.
As it pertains to inkjet inks, a lingering perception of them being too expensive can lead to concern among commercial printers. The reality, however, is that while inkjet inks can be costly, the efficiency of the process and the control that printers have throughout production can lead to significant savings. For example, in the makeready process, ink and substrate waste is eliminated. Unlike offset, bringing the press into registration, up to color, and up to speed, is instantaneous.
Production volume is another area where misconceptions about inkjet remain. While digital printing has gained a well-deserved reputation as being advantageous for short-run production, that is not the only area in which it shines. Though run lengths at many commercial printers have been significantly reduced, inkjet’s print speeds can exceed 700 fpm, allowing it to take on medium- and long-run jobs as well.
Enter SCREEN Americas
SCREEN Americas, part of the SCREEN Graphics Solutions Group, is among the leaders in production inkjet solutions for the commercial printing industry. The company’s Truepress platform spans the gamut of commercial printing applications including publishing, direct mail, and transactional, in addition to a lineup of roll-fed inkjet presses for labels and packaging.
For the commercial printing segment, the Truepress lineup consists of the Truepress Jet520HD Series, which provides high-definition inkjet printing for high-end publications and commercial applications, the Jet520NX, which provides full-color variable printing to serve the transaction market, and the Truepress Jet520ZZ, which provides economical, high-speed production in full color.
Though inkjet may be new on the scene compared to conventional printing processes, technological advancements across production inkjet have made it an essential tool for commercial printers. With its high-quality results, production efficiency, and variable printing capabilities, production inkjet is poised to remain a mainstay throughout commercial print shops.
For more on how you can take advantage of inkjet opportunities in commercial printing, download our FREE white paper.