It is hardly a secret that digital print production is steadily overtaking traditional methods such as offset lithography printing. The growth is accelerating in favor of digital printing too, as rapid product development cycles and JIT manufacturing means that acceptable lead times continue to inexorably shorten.
So what are some advantages offered by digital printing, and why should printers consider it over non-digital technologies? We highlight some of them below.
Faster to market: There is no doubt that digital printing is significantly faster to market in terms of both setup and printing. In addition, design errors that are detected late in the process can still be corrected without incurring significant time and cost penalties compared to lithography-based printing.
Less need for specialized knowledge: New digital printing equipment is typically designed to integrate with standard computing infrastructure, or may even run off a PC workstation. This means that deploying and maintaining them could be done by generic IT personnel with either little, or no additional training. This compares favorably with the highly specialized and proprietary skillsets required to operate non-digital printing hardware properly.
Customization: Depending on the machines deployed and type of printing, digital printing offers the inherent ability for significant levels of customization. This could theoretically go down to the individual piece with no impact on the duration of the job.
Superior cost at low runs: Ultimately, the cost of digital printing is low due to the absence of various costs inherent to many non-digital printing processes. This means that printing in digital is usually significantly cheaper unless printing in very high volumes.
Highly versatile: A new generation of advanced large format printers means that digital printing now offers incredible versatility in terms of output size. Moreover, the lack of a setup cost also allows for experimentation to see what works best, as well as the ability to conduct a test print.
Challenges with digital printing
Of course, it is not to say that digital printing is the answer to all your solutions. For a fair comparison, it is important to highlight some challenges currently faced by digital printing faces that need to be worked out.
For one, workers trained in manpower intensive work processes would need to be retrained to operate the new digital printing equipment. This should be a relatively quicker affair for younger workers who are already familiar with computers, though your mileage might vary with older workers.
Special colors may also be an area that may not be addressed satisfactorily by current generation of machines. Of course, this may not be a huge concern given that the vast majority of customers would not require such services.
Finally, it is necessary to first acquire new digital printing equipment, which is likely to be a very expensive endeavor. On the upside, businesses in Singapore could tap into a variety of schemes such as the Productivity and Innovation Credit Scheme (PICS) in order to offset some of their costs.
Ultimately, the reduced turnaround time and increased customization offered by digital printing is setting it up to be a game-changer in the world of printing. And in a world that increasingly demand things done in the shortest time possible, this means that non-digital printing could eventually be relegated to high volume jobs or to print colors that digital equipment cannot yet produce.
Indeed, going digital has helped at least one Singapore-based company to innovate and offer a jaw-dropping minimum order quantity (MOQ) of a single T-shirt. You can read about the story of printing a T-shirt in 30 minutes here.