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Printing On-Demand

(June 2009) posted on Mon Jun 22, 2009

High-speed presses for 4-color, vaiable-date output.

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If it’s one-to-one marketing jobs you’re seeking, then you’ll be dealing with variable data. And for that component, there’s no better tool than a high-speed digital color press. These super-fast “on-demand” 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 highly individualized pieces—each page may contain personalized graphics, text, charts, and headlines.
It’s important to note, however, that 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.
If you’re considering adding an on-demand press to your operation, check to see which 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. Examine 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 an on-demand press and in comparing and contrasting specific machines:
• Reporting speeds will often vary from company to company and machine to machine; some companies report in pages per minute (ppm) or pages per hour (pph), while others report in feet/meters per minute (fpm/mpm), or impressions per minute, 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.
We’ve assembled a sampling of the high-speed on-demand presses currently on the market, and present them here. Each offers at least 4-color output, can handle complex variable-data printing, and is no smaller than 12-in. wide.