The evolution of offset printing leads to cost optimisation in the context of ever shorter print runs with the same quality as digital printing
Conventional or digital printing? When it comes to label printing, it is generally considered that digital printing is more cost-effective for short runs, while conventional printing pays off better for medium and long runs. However, this is an answer that needs to be nuanced, given that the evolution of both technology and market demands requires other factors to be considered, such as the printing substrate, the type of ink and, of course, the quality of the job.
The fact is that, in the label printing market, offset technology is a niche to be exploited compared to flexo. Digital systems are booming, but in our opinion this, which could be seen as a problem for offset, can be an opportunity in the long term.
There is no question that digital printing offers high quality, which allows it to handle most jobs with ease. But the point is that offset technology is also evolving, and this suggests that the balance in the label printing market is about to change.
There are two main factors to bear in mind:
- Compared to all other conventional label printing processes, such as flexo, offset printing offers the same qualities as digital technology.
- The evolution of offset technology is leading to cost optimisation, so that, compared to other conventional systems, it reaches earlier the point where it becomes economically advantageous compared to digital printing. In other words, shorter and shorter print runs are needed before the main advantage of digital technology fades away.
The advantages of semi-rotary offset printing: ROTATEK’s Brava series
If we focus on the equipment we develop at ROTATEK, we see that not only are costs optimised for short and medium runs, but also that the semi-rotary system used by the Brava 350 and 450 presses (the latter, moreover, with the possibility of alternating with the rotary) streamlines all previous work, avoids format changes, and allows the use of standard materials, inks and consumables.
Users of semi-rotary offset presses can produce relatively short runs at similar costs to digital printers, and the longer the run the greater the cost advantage. The intersection of both technologies depending on the digital printing process used, is between 700 and 1,500 meters of print run. That is, below that threshold, it is cheaper to print digitally, while above it, it is more convenient to do use offset.
In addition to the run, it is necessary to consider aspects such as the substrates, the inks to be used, and the quality of the final work.
- Offset printing offers superb image quality on any surface, allows any colour to be reproduced regardless of screens and backgrounds, and has a standard Pantone colour guide.
- By contrast, digital printing does not offer guarantees of the highest quality on any type of substrate, the finishes require a second operation, and depends on the manufacturer of the equipment for the supply of inks, consumables, and accessories.