Printing devices – digital versus offset

Terms like digital printing and offset printing are somehow unknown for a lot of people. We will tell you what are the main differences between them and what are the advantages and disadvantages for digital and offset printing devices.

What is digital printing?

Digital printing is constantly evolving and changing in our days. It all started in the 60’s with the first analog copy machines and they permanently improved to the point where we have high-tech digital printing machines like Manroland presses , a brand that is recognized also for high quality offset presses.

The basic principle of how digital printing devices work is represented by reproducing digital information directly on a printing medium (paper, plastic, etc), without a mold being required. The most popular technologies are laser and inkjet devices. Digital printing is very profitable for small and medium editioning that need to be executed in a very short time.

Unlike offset printing, digital printing has several advantages. For instance, you can print variable data that sourced in a database and two consecutives sheets of paper can have totally different content.

Digital printing has a huge speed of execution and allows you to print a test-copy before printing the entire order, which of course, it can be for only one copy. That means it is very economic for small orders, plus the fact that the printing process can be executed on-line.

What is offset printing?

Offset printing is a printing technique in which the image is transferred on the printing medium (usually paper) with the help of a rubber blanket, that takes the inked image from a plate (the mold) and “offsets” it on the medium.

Offset printing takes much longer, especially due to the preparatory operations like creating the mold (the inked plates), cleaning and calibrating the press, etc. So it can be a bit more messier than digital printing.

However, the advantages are that the costs are significantly reduced when you print large numbers of copies, it supports bigger formats and easier usage for spot and pantone colours.

Which one is better?

This is not a question that can be answered easily. It depends on many factors, but one of the most important would be asnwering this question: Are you a small business or a large one? If you’re a small business and you want to get back your investments quickly, then digital printing is the thing for you.

On short term, digital printing is more economical and more easy to setup. Instead, if you plan on printing large number of copies, be informed that offset presses have the advantage of reducing the cost per piece proportional with the increase of quantity, due to the speed of the actual printing process.

So, on a long term, your setup costs will be absorbed by the small price per copy. That makes offset printing far more advantegeous for medium and large businesses. To give you an example, if you’re planning to print fewer between 500 and 1000 copies, you can choose a digital press. For more than 1000 pieces, offset printing should be your best option.