Digital transformation is a phrase that’s become hard to avoid. Much over-used it’s often applied to anything where even the smallest element of technology has been bolted-on to an analogue or dated service. With the advent of digital printing the process of “putting ink on paper” though has been truly transformed…here’s how.
The advent of digital printing
More than 500 years after Gutenberg created a printing press capable of the mass production of books, the first Indigo digital printing device was launched in 1993. Following an initial investment in 2000, HP bought the business outright in 2001.
Traditional printing (offset/litho) uses a complex method that requires metal plates to reproduce an image. Digital printing instead transfers the image directly from a digital file onto a range of papers and substrates.
In the early days, the quality of output meant that many were sniffy about its uses. The technology has advanced so rapidly, and improvements to it have been so great, that well-produced digital printing now rivals that of anything produced lithographically. So much so, even die-hard traditionalists have become convinced of its benefits.
Advantages of digital printing:
Digital production is swift. It cuts out traditional stages and uses less resource - across design, transfer or upload, set-up, proofing and production – so delivering speed to you, to market, or even direct to your customer. In an always-on, impatient world that’s a big bonus.
To keep the cost-per-unit reasonable, traditional printing methods meant that large quantities of a product had to be ordered. That had a knock-on effect for physical storage, impact on budget and a risk of obsolescence. Digital printing on-demand (POD) means products can be ordered as and when they’re required, even as and when they’re changed. Super-convenient!
The ability to create wholly unique documents, personalised using virtually limitless data-fields (text and imagery) was previously impossible and can only be achieved by digital printing. And, as this can be across a range of media, has applications for packaging, wall-art, décor, books, promotional gifts…the list is endless.
In the marketing space, gut-feel and instinct can play a part. More scientific (and with far greater likelihood of ROI) are campaigns based on sound testing and sampling. The shorter print runs that can be achieved with digital are perfect for the A/B testing that marketers need, or for sampling a product to test a market’s initial reaction to it.
Supplementary or re-stocking
In instances where very large print-runs, and so traditional print processes, are appropriate, digital printing still has a role to play. For example,
- where stocks run short and interim re-stocking is required
- for localised versions of a document – e.g. in a foreign language
- if an initial quantity was underestimated and needs to be supplemented
With digital printing, every sheet is the same as there is no requirement to balance ink and water during the print-run. For brand management and control this is paramount.
Digital printing is an increasingly green process requiring less chemicals and no need for plates. Printing only what is required, and when - particularly using a service provider with green credentials and a commitment to environmentally sound materials - is good, responsible practice.