Digital Print Lives Up to Its Promises
A mere decade ago, digital printing was seen as a luxury buy for direct mailers—used only for ultra short-run campaigns that perhaps didn’t require a high level of output quality. Back then, several barriers stood between the direct marketer and digital print—print quality, cost-per-impression, color-matching capabilities, and limited media compatibility.
Today, these barriers have all but been removed, enabling direct marketers to finally capitalize on the promise of digital print.
Quality: Still King
Most digital print manufacturers contend that the quality of their printing systems’ output has greatly improved in recent years. That’s certainly measurable in print resolution.
“When digital printing first emerged, the print resolutions were typically in the 240-dots-per-inch or 300-dots-per-inch range, with addressing systems printing at lower resolutions,” says Pat McGrew, director, transaction industry marketing, Kodak Graphic Communications Group, Rochester, N.Y. “Over the last 20 years, the advances in resolution across the range of digital devices have brought sharper print, sharper images, and more variety in color ranges, and the ability to create fine gradients,” he adds.
Kodak Graphic Communications Group positions two of its digital printers for the direct response market: the Kodak Versamark D-series ink-jet family for personalization and addressing applications; and the Kodak NexPress for creating full-color direct mail campaigns.
“We’ve also come a long way with the RIPs, with memory and processing power, so it’s really helped that you can RIP at the same rate you can print. That was always a problem in the past. You’d have this variable-data job that would take four days to RIP before you could start to print,” notes Tracy Yelencsics, manager, production color marketing at Xerox Corp., Rochester, N.Y.
Hardware isn’t the only determinant of quality; it’s largely dependent on blending the right consumables—inks or toners and media. “High-speed production printing creates a stress case for the performance of the imaging system and, certainly, the toner in that system,” explains Mary Fromm, manager, toner and developing manufacturing group, Xerox Corp. “The printers need to be running at extremely fast throughput rates, and the customers have … very high standards about the quality of the prints.