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Where To From Here
The advance in digital printing has not edged out offset and the latter is not dead either

So it goes the reports of Offset Lithography are dead and buried are also greatly exaggerated. The truth is that Offset is alive and well and living in harmony with digital printing.

In 1990 at Drupa, we saw the first attempt at what is now known as digital printing, very primitive and extremely poor quality. Then in 1995, we saw the first commercial introduction of digital printing, also a Drupa.

Since then digital printing has come of age, firstly toner (wet and dry inks) based systems took the world by storm and the quality today, especially in what is called the heavy end is of a standard rivaling offset. Now Inkjet is screaming ahead and the quality levels are improving daily.


So why is Offset Lithography not dead? Firstly the unit cost per copy has reduced dramatically over the past few years. Secondly the process has kept pace with the ever demanding green credential needed to appease a skeptical public and profit driven international corporations that would prefer to go electronic than be concerned with environmental sensibility.

During his masters research, Philip Lawrence, a printing identity in Australia found in his extensive study that Offset Lithography today emits 97% less than in 1990. No other industry can boost such achievements.

Now the unit price of Offset Lithography is at record low levels and has a carbon footprint that should be the envy of other comparable industries. Couple this with run speeds that are not currently possible in the digital arena plus quick make-readies and reduced waste levels, why would this process be dead?

The answer is a beautiful marriage of complementary processes. Offset Lithography for speed, reduces environmental impact, amazing cost efficiencies and digital for variable data, personalization and the ability to print great quality short run work. What a winning combination!


Digital printing has been sold as a very simple process, one press button and then instant print. They forgot to mention the fact that cleaning and maintenance is of a premium and that large high-resolution files take time to be processed and outputted, especially when using variable data or when printing both sides in one pass. They also tend to overlook the cost per copy, click charge that has come down but does still adds to the overall cost of unit production. Printing 50 to 100 high quality brochures, books or flyers is now possible thanks to digital printing but producing 1.5 million personalized pieces just does not make sense.


The best solution would be to combine the strengths of Offset Lithography to print non-variable blanks and then personalize the variable data with the digital process. Now you get the best of both worlds.

In this world of constant change it is important to assess the merits of each communication process to maximize the impact of the message. Using the strengths of each printing process ensures this message is provided at the most economical and environmentally friendly way.

Printing is not dead and is still an important and strong medium for communication. It is now up to the industry to use each print we are helping save the planet with sustainable resources.

Extracts from PRINT

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