Understanding Digital Printing

Digital printing is a printing method that entails printing digital images directly on to a particular media. It can be used for small jobs in which just a few copies of a document are printed using desktop printers, or a large-run of documents where industrial laser ink-jet printers are used. The main distinguishing feature of this technology and printing machine is being able to print the digital images directly.

Unlike traditional printing techniques and technologies, which require one to develop a master printing plate, digital printing does not require such a plate. You can print a document directly without having to go through the numerous steps of developing a plate.

How Digital Printing Works

Digital printing works by digitally recreating the image you want to print onto the medium you are printing on using very small dots. This is different to offset lithography printer which uses a plate to stamp the image you need printed. The number of dots per inch – DPI – determine the clarity of the image printed. The higher the DPI, the clearer the printed image will be.

In order to do the printing, the electronic document needs to be converted into a raster image file; that is either a GIF, JPEG, TIFF, or a BMP file. These are files that have coordinates for each of the dots that will be printed.

As for the printing itself, there are two main digital printing technologies in use today – the inkjet printing technology and the dry toner digital printing technology. The inkjet technology uses an electrostatic system to attract minute droplets of ink on the medium, thereby recreating the actual image. On the other hand, the dry toner-based printing technology uses a plastic-based powder that is extremely fine. The coloured powder is heated and each drop of ink is deposited onto a corresponding grid number.

Owing to the different approaches in printing, these two techniques/technologies produce very different print qualities. The dry toner-based printing technology is renowned for producing higher DPI and, therefore, clearer images. Additionally, the print emerges from the printer dry.

The Print Media

Digital printing can be used to print papers of varying thickness and texture, plastics, synthetics substrates, and fabric. Essentially, the technology is being used in a number of different places that require printing.

The Advantages And Disadvantages

The Good

Fast Turnaround – Digital printing tends to have a much faster turnaround that the traditional printing technologies. Since you can start to print using just the image without first developing a printing plate, you can expedite the printing process for a much faster turnaround. This is especially true for short-run projects.

It Is Much Cheaper When Printing Short-Run Projects – Granted the cost per page of digital printers tends to be higher than traditional offset lithography printers however, you do away with some of the costs as you do not have to develop printing plates,. As such, over short-run projects, using digital printers is the most cost effective option available.

Easier To Customise – Digital printing provides print-on-demand capabilities. These capabilities allow you to print a certain document as needed when needed. This is important as it means you can easily change parts of the project as needed even after printing has begun. As such, you can customize your prints as needed, even whilst in the middle of the printing process.

The Bad

The biggest drawback of digital printing is its high cost-per-page. This characteristic means that digital printing only has the cost performance advantage over traditional printing technology when used in short-run projects. When printing a high volume of the same document, it makes sense to use offset lithography printer.

Does Using Digital Printing Suffice For Your Next Printing Project?

It depends. If you are printing a low volume of a particular document, a digital printer will suffice. You get to enjoy a faster turnaround at a relatively lower cost. However, if your next printing project requires you to print a high volume of documents, say over 500, digital printing might not suffice in terms of the cost implications.

As mentioned, digital printing has a higher cost per page than offset lithography printing. As such, when you have to print a high volume of the same documents, the overall cost per page surpasses all the costs involved in making the plate used in offset lithography printing, as well as the actual printing.

That being said, if all the documents you are printing have variations that make each document unique (for instance, each document has a unique address, name, phone number, etc.), digital printing has a cost advantage. In this case, using the alternative offset lithography printer means you have to develop a plate for each document, an endeavour that is not only time-consuming but insanely expensive.

If you need better understanding of whether digital printing will suffice for your next printing project, Impact Digital is always ready to help you out. For the past 10 years, we have been at the forefront of digital printing. Not only are we specialized in the art and science of digital printing, it also our bread and butter. Digital printing is all we do and, therefore, we have amassed invaluable knowledge and understanding to meet all our clients’ demands and needs. Call us today at 0393870999 or email us at general@impactdigital.com.au. We are always happy and ready to respond to your queries.

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