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On-Demand Printers Sourcelist

(May 2007) posted on Sat May 12, 2007

High-speed presses for 4-color, variable-data output.


By Peggy Middendorf

Print shops wanting to diversify their product offerings may want to consider adding high-speed digital color presses. These super-fast presses are capable of producing 4-color fliers, posters, and brochures containing variable data. While lesser machines can product basic transactional printing (inserting a name into a letter or billing information onto an invoice), these presses are capable of producing completely individualized pieces-each page may contain personalized graphics, text, charts, and headlines.

On the downside, these presses typically are limited when it comes to output size (most feature a 12- or 20-in. maximum width), and they can carry relatively hefty price tags (up to half a million dollars). In addition, a shop must develop expertise in optimizing the sales and use of the variable-data components.

Before jumping into the high-speed game, check to see types of high-speed variable jobs your current customers as well as top prospects are in need of: complex variable-data fliers, brochures, mailings, etc. Ask them the frequency and length of the runs, the type of media/substrates they need, and the variety of finishing services they'll require after printing. All of these factors will help steer you to the type of high-speed press that can accommodate their printing needs.

In addition, consider these specific features when evaluating if a high-speed on-demand press makes sense for your operation, and in comparing and contrasting specific machines:

* Reporting speeds will often vary from company to company and machine to machine-some report in pages per minute (ppm) or pages per hour (pph), while others report in feet/meters per minute (fpm/mpm), or the elusive impressions per hour (iph) or impressions per month (ipm), etc.

* Some presses require an additional controller or RIP to handle the VDP processing.

* Consider the variable-data software recommended for use with the hardware, as well as the available training for prepress and graphic artists.

* Note the types of coated/uncoated rollfed or sheetfed media that the press will accommodate-some only print on typical papers, while others print on a variety of substrates and heavier media.

* The additional in-line or near-line specialty-finishing equipment-such as a specialty varnish, cutting, booklet making, or binding-will vary.

* Press OEMs will typically offer some kind of support and training; most companies now have business units devoted to this.


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