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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Digital Printing Companies Eye New Digital Inkjet Web Presses with Interest

The field of digital custom printing is changing once again in an intriguing way. Offset printing has been declining in some areas, such as newspaper and newsletter printing, as well as some catalog printing. Nevertheless, I still see in my mailbox every day at least as many marketing postcards, printed and converted custom envelopes, and any number of other new and exotic promotional materials as ever before.

Digital printing (xerography and inkjet printing, rather than Internet publishing and ebooks) has been growing over the past several years, but many of the digital printing jobs I have sold as a broker are smaller runs than the norm for an offset printed piece. Maybe one client needs 350 high-end, 4-color invitations produced on an Indigo press. Maybe another wants a single13-foot by 17-foot vinyl banner to suspend from an exterior wall of a building. Granted, the market for variable data digital printing (printing different materials for each recipient) has been expanding, along with the market for digital on demand book printing services.

Within this context, a new kind of digital press is being developed that combines the potential length of an offset print run with the data variability of a digital printing press. Marketers and business printing vendors are paying close attention.

HP (Hewlett Packard) has invented a 42-inch high-speed digital press, the T400, that can print 600 feet per minute of completely variable data. That’s approximately 5,200 pages of full color streaming through the press. And on a 42-inch wide roll of paper (almost twice the width of many web press rolls), you can gang up two jobs and print them simultaneously.

You can print sharp text and images, and uniform fills and screens on paper stocks ranging from 27# text to 130# cover. You can print on almost any uncoated or groundwood stock as well as many coated stocks. Associated vendors are even developing workflow, imposition, and finishing solutions, as well as process inks and dryer systems for this digital web press.

Who Will Benefit?

The digital inkjet web press will be a boon to those who produce direct mail and transpromotional materials. (“Transpromotional” refers to the personalized marketing materials you get that are either included with or actually on the same page as your billing statements.)

The digital web press will also benefit online printing companies that preprint such items as custom envelopes and letterhead, and then later imprint these items with variable text. Instead of preprinting and storing any kind of branded material for letters and transactional statements (and paying the costs for storage, inventory, security, and potential obsolescence), these print companies can just print everything for a letter, bank statement, or billing statement right on blank paper as needed.

If your job includes magnetic ink (printed balance transfer or rebate check mailers, for instance), your printing service can produce the whole thing at once, rather than printing the MICR ink, storing the check blanks in a secure facility, and then adding the 4-color images and other variable data at a later date.

This new technology will also benefit those creating cross-media campaigns that include print, web, and email components.

From the Point of View of the Client

From the point of view of the end-user, personalization is the key. You get a huge amount of mail. You want any reason to throw it away. But you may actually read something that reflects your personal interests. When a supplier of any kind shows that he/she has paid attention to who you are and what you need and value (based on whatever demographic information, past buying history, or whatever else they have), you will be more likely to read that supplier’s marketing materials and potentially buy their product.

Variable Data at Full Press Speed

Mass customization used to be an oxymoron. Printing services could provide one or the other but not both. Now an online printing service can merge the high-volume and document quality of offset printing with the personalization features of digital printing: faster turn-around, high quality, small to large press runs, and customization. Printing companies are excited.

10 Responses to “Digital Printing Companies Eye New Digital Inkjet Web Presses with Interest”

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