The printing industry, just like others, has been adopting new processes and equipment over the years with the advent of newer technology. It is therefore now possible to use a variety of printing techniques for printing on different surfaces, in different quantities and for different purposes. However, in modern times, there are two principal printing techniques which are the most popular in commercial operations. Businesses have to choose between them, and this is an important decision. Choosing the printing technique for a particular printing assignment will lead to superior efficiency and better results. Besides, it will bring about better customer satisfaction and adherence to timelines.
Knowing the difference between the two technique processes is helpful. Web offset printing has a much longer history, since it has evolved from the original offset press printing which dates back to over a century ago. This conventional form of printing has remained almost true to its original process, except that the use of computers now saves a great deal of precious time. The process follows a path of computer-to-plate-to rubber blanket-to printing surface. Digital printing, on the other hand, is a much newer technique. The main difference is that it simply removes the numerous steps in image transfer. Instead, ink is applied in a single pass from an ink head. It is in fact quite similar to home or office-use inkjet printers.
Here’s a look at some of the significant distinctions between the two techniques. Depending on the specific need of the assignment, the printing method may be chosen.
Features of Digital and Web Offset Printing –
- Quantity of Printing Assignment
In Digital – Suitable for small print runs- a common parameter is less than 500 units; thus used for specialized publications or customized printing.
In Web Offset – Best suited for high-volume printing, well over 500 units, meaning publications like newspapers, periodicals and most magazines opt for this
- Page Size Accommodation
In Digital – Accommodation limited to flat page sizes of about 18 inches x 12 inches.
In Web Offset – Much bigger page sizes can be accommodated, such as a flat page sizes of 25 inches* 38 inches.
- Multiple color printing quality
In Digital – Limited ability to match Pantone Matching System colors; only a single ink head available for printing. Less refined printing quality than web offset.
In Web Offset – Far superior versatility due to the ability to utilize dull or gloss varnish, different textures and print PMS colors due to multiple ink heads
- Cost & time
In Digital – Far more economical in initial setup than offset; quick to install and easier to maintain.
In Web Offset – Much higher setup cost, need for specialized inks, more maintenance and longer time needed for installation
In Digital – Well-suited and recommended wherever customization is needed in assignment, such as while printing individual names and addresses, or unique data of any kind.
In Web Offset – Not conducive for customization
- Choice in printing surfaces
In Digital – Not too many options
In Web Offset – Lends itself to a broad spectrum of finishes, thickness and textures of paper, use of specialized inks, spot varnishes and special effects
To summarize, the choice of your printing technique depends upon the budget, volume of production, color accuracy required in the assignment, project deadline and customization required.