Digital printing – where does it fit?

I am often asked what I think the future holds for print and whether it will ultimately be replaced with digital printing technology? It’s a question that needs careful consideration and in truth none of us know the answer.

Litho printing, which I spent my apprenticeship mastering back in the mid 80’s, has undoubtedly had its challenges of late. I have witnessed first hand the emergence of small format digital print machines during the past decade or so.

We (KMS) resisted the challenge initially and if I am honest I still hold a slight resentment of them, to me they appear to de-skill the craftsmanship of print, the print in my eyes has been slightly inferior and there is no way of reproducing Pantone colours on most digital machines. Yet, we could not be without our digital press. We have had one for just seven years now and have been very impressed with the quality and consistency. The ability to print on 350gsm business card board is a real plus.

The point here is that change is constant, embrace it or be left behind! The two methods of print can compliment one and other, just as this digital newsletter compliments other printed marketing material we produce.

Digital printing with variable data

The project pictured above was a great example of litho / personalised digital printing / mailing carried out under one roof. The 4-page folded DL size mailer was litho printed first with the generic information to both sides. The mailers were run through the digital press linked to the variable data software to overprint an individual message to the front of each of the 500 mailers. In addition we also completed the fulfilment of the mailer in to the postal stream.

For most of us a beautifully bound book is an object of desire, to touch and feel. Digital cannot replace the feel of a book, yet an electronic reader is a must have when travelling, again the two must compliment one and other.

We have now produced numerous mailing campaigns for clients that have crossed platforms. Litho print for the base print run followed by individual personalisation from a database through the digital press. We have then managed the mailsort in to the postal stream. There have then also been projects where social media campaigns have linked with print. These are areas that are set to grow. Print isn’t necessarily going to disappear but we do need to be more creative in how we utilise it

Will digital communication replace the printed page? Probably, one day as the younger generations filter through, but hopefully not for a few years yet and hopefully not in my working lifetime. The day I can no longer sniff a printed page to tell how it was printed will be a sad one.