Why digital printing is better than offset printing

Copy shop Copyplanet Berlin

The Digital printing and the Offset printing are printing processes that are used in both copy shops and print shops. While offset printing is mainly used for larger print runs (e.g. brochures, business reports or training documents), digital printing is used for the production of smaller runs or individual printed copies. In the following we summarize further differences and similarities between the two printing processes.

Digital printing

Digital printing is a printing process used in copy shops for a variety of applications. The print image is transferred from a computer to a printing machine without using a static printing form. In copy shops and print shops, high-end laser printers are mostly used for digital printing, which are designed for high numbers of copies. Inkjet printers are sometimes used for large-format printed matter (e.g. posters). While the output quality of digital printing systems in earlier times lagged significantly behind that of offset printing machines, such systems are now also used for printing wallpaper, mesh fabric or PVC banners.

With the digital printing process, also known as Direct Digital Printing (DDP), personalized prints (e.g. of credit card statements or bank statements) are possible. Since no fixed template is required, each sheet can be printed differently. Multi-page documents can be printed immediately in the correct order without having to change the printing form. Copy shops usually have professional printing systems equipped with binding and cutting devices. This enables the production of complete printed products within a very short time. Exam and doctoral theses that are available in digital form can be printed and bound on the spot.

In terms of printing costs, digital printing is much cheaper than offset printing for smaller print runs. The production costs are now so low that books by newcomer authors are already appearing on the market in standard quality, which were produced with the help of digital printing. Digitally printed short runs have the advantage that you can carry out a market test of the planned run without having to invest a lot of money. In the field of digital photography, too, printing costs are falling from year to year. Printed matter such as wall calendars and photo books, which until a few years ago were only produced using offset printing, can now be produced in the copy shop without any problems.

Offset printing

In contrast to digital printing, offset printing is a so-called indirect printing process in which the printing medium and the printing plate do not come into contact with one another. The color is transferred to the substrate via a cylinder. The printing plate is permanently moistened and provided with printing ink. Often several pages are printed on a larger area and then cut. In addition to paper and cardboard, glass, ceramics, sheet metal and various plastics can also be printed using the offset printing process.

As with digital printing, offset printing also uses the colors CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). It is always important to ensure that the print data is created in the correct color mode, as changes can occur when converting RGB (red / green / blue) to CMYK. Real halftones cannot be printed with offset printing - instead, images, intermediate tones or color nuances must be applied to the substrate using simulated halftones. This is done by rasterizing into non-periodic or periodic grids.

Since the substrate is heavily used during the printing process, the quality of the material is of crucial importance. The following quality criteria are important for paper and cardboard:

  • smoothness
  • Abrasion resistance
  • absorbency
  • Paper dust poverty
  • Pick resistance
  • Uniformity in the line

In addition, the paper should be insensitive to the formation of waves and bubbles, paper web breaks and excessive stretching due to the influence of moisture and tensile force. If you print on films (e.g. made of PE or PVC), the film properties must be perfectly coordinated. The printing press manufacturers offer special equipment to compensate for the static charges caused by the frictional contact between the offset sheets.

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