Get More Quality Out of Digital Printing
For years, most direct marketers looked at digital printing as offset’s low-quality cousin. But technological improvements and an industry-wide interest in one-to-one communication have driven digital into the spotlight. “Digital printing is definitely on the rise,” states Dr. Joseph Webb, a Ph.D. graduate of the NYU Center for Graphic Communications Management and Technology and founder of PrintForecast.com. To back up this assertion, Webb cites a study released by the Commerce Department that shows digital printing business increased 28.3 percent from 1997 through 2004, while the print industry overall decreased by 2.7 percent.
Because most of the talk about digital printing centers around highly personalized variable data applications, that increase might suggest a marked rise in the use of one-to-one communications, but as Webb points out, variable data printing (VDP) has yet to live up to its own hype. “VDP is what people talk about, but that’s a real mistake; it’s not living up to what people hoped for in terms of volume.” Instead, Webb sees the real application for digital printing as an alternative to traditional offset in static jobs because digital technology has improved to the point where everyday jobs can be turned out quickly, affordably and at a quality near, if not equal to, offset.
The end result of these improvements is that digital printing can be a good solution, even for marketers who are not ready or interested in creating variable campaigns. But to get that quality, care needs to be taken in a few key areas.
• Paper. When selecting paper for a digital job, the first thing to look for is a stock that has been tested and approved for use on a digital press. Because digital printing uses heat to set toner to paper, the sheet must be able to withstand high temperatures, otherwise it will curl or crack. It also needs to be smooth to ensure the toner sticks evenly, and of uniform thickness to ease how it travels through the press. The variety of papers acceptable for digital printing has improved along with the technology, and now options exist for such specialty items as cardstocks, textured sheets, transparencies, foils and adhesive labels.