The Pros and Cons of Digital Printing for Small Businesses

Ceiling danglersWhen you look at the services offered by commercial printing companies, they’ll typically fall under two categories: digital and offset printing. The former prints images directly from computer files, while the latter uses custom plates and rubber blankets to apply ink to paper (or whatever other material is being printed on). So which is better? The answer is that both have their purposes, but digital printing is likely to appeal to small businesses. Here are the pros and cons of choosing digital printing:

The Pros of Digital Techniques

  • Faster Turnaround Time: Because no custom plates need to be created for a digital printing job, companies can often offer an extremely quick turnaround on projects. 
  • Lower Minimum Quantities: Because a printing company doesn’t need to invest time in making custom plates, it’s often possible to get much shorter runs (meaning the company sets its minimum quantity much lower than it would for an offset printing job). 
  • No or Low Setup Costs: Also because digital printing works directly with computer files, there are typically no or very low setup fees associated with a digital printing job. 
  • Variable-Data Capabilities: Digital printing makes it very easy to vary some data between different prints of the same overall project — something that comes in handy for direct mailers, letters or other kinds of personalized pieces. 
  • Sophisticated Options: Digital printing facilitates a wide variety of options regarding papers, inks and specialty finishes so that a project can be customized to perfection. 

The Cons of Digital Techniques

  • Potentially Lower Quality: Traditionally, offset printing is thought to provide a higher printing quality than digital printing, and allow for better color matching and overall more vibrant shades. But there are some extremely high-quality digital presses on the market today, meaning that at the printing company you end up choosing, this may or may not be true. 
  • A Higher Price by Piece: The major downside of digital printing is that the cost per unit is actually higher than it is for offset printing. Initially, that cost is offset by a lack of setup fees. But once you need to print several thousand identical copies, it might be cheaper to use an offset process. 

So what’s the verdict for your needs? Would your business benefit more from digital or offset printing? Discuss in the comments.

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