While it may seem like an easy choice to decide on a printing technology, there are a lot of different factors that determine which one is best, especially when you consider the cost of printing equipment. After all, both short-term and long-term ROI is critical when you factor in the evolution of the market.
If the decision maker does the math, the choice of which printing technique to use hinges on average order sizes and ROI as it pertains to paying off the equipment. One rule of thumb involves the following scale in terms of what companies may be producing for the average customer relative to the technology that’s perhaps best suited for them:
- Above 100,000 square meters: Flexo or gravure
- Between 5,000 and 100,000 square meters: Offset
- Below 5,000 square meters: Digital
Now keep in mind that your average customer is likely also facing increased demand for shorter run lengths, decreased lead times, reduced solvents, increased quality demands, increase in utilization of resources and more flexibility in press configuration.
Noting this, web offset is a no brainer for flexible packaging in the situation that a company’s average order size is between 5,000 and 100,000 square meters.
But offset sounds so complicated.
Despite this perception, offset printing is not complicated. In fact, it is simple.
In the world of fixed size printing, everybody is doing offset. People have been doing it for more than 100 years. The differences and the basics of what the decision maker needs to know about offset are outlined below as it pertains to the image carrier, water, inks, web tension, reliability and use of solvents. Here’s a closer look:
- Offset is a technology which uses thin plates.
- An image carrier is made in 5 minutes.
- Image carriers are inexpensive.
- There are no storage and cleaning costs for image carriers, being that it is easier to make new plates for every order.
- Image carriers are readable and mistakes in design can be more easily noticed before printing.
- Image carrier needs a blanket.
- Water plus additives is called a “fountain” or “damping solution.”
- Water-less is also an option, although not frequently used.
- The control of fountain solution is critical in offset.
- You get more mileage out of the ink.
- The ink has more drying options.
- The ink is solvent-free.
- There is more control over the ink properties before and in the press.
- In general, offset ink has a higher gamut and a lower color intensity.
- There’s less storage space required for inks.
- Web tension needs to be controlled due to high forces on the web.
- Web length has an influence on the web tension and stretch on the material.
- Tension determines how you can print.
- An offset press can better cope with its tension and web length.
- Tension determines modularity of the press.
- No down time allowed due to the investment.
- Order setup
- Testing/proofing time
- Flexibility: You can add functionality to the printing press.
- No reincinators.
- No atex regulations.
- No warehouse for cleaning or storage of image sleeves.
- Less fire risk.
It’s so important to evaluate all the options that are out there not only when it comes to web offset, but any printing technology. It likely won’t surprise you to learn that offset is best able to adapt to the challenges of your customers.
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