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The Digital Press Equation

(March 2008) posted on Thu Mar 06, 2008

How seven companies have successfully integrated digital presses.

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By Jake Widman

Since they first came on the scene more than a decade ago, digital presses have found a spot on many a print-shop floor. It took a while, though, as print vendors and buyers both tried to figure out how best to make use of these machines. As it stands, they haven’t supplanted offset presses so much as complemented them, enabling providers to take on jobs that the more traditional units aren’t suited for.

In many cases, that means printing with variable data, so that content varies from impression to impression, and we’ll look more closely at that later this year. In other cases, it means short-run or quick-turnaround jobs. Digital presses don’t require the makeready or washup that offset presses do, so they can be economical for runs in the hundreds or even the dozens.

Some of them are like big color copiers, using toner, while others are more like offset presses, using liquid ink with cylinders and blankets. Some can be web-fed (fed from a roll of paper), while others are sheetfed. But whatever technology they’re based on, shops that own them tend to use them for similar purposes. Where they fit into your business is up to you to discover, but to help you, we talked to a handful of print providers who operate digital presses and asked what they use them for, why they chose the model they have, and what advice they’d have for anyone considering the acquisition of a similar digital press.

Capturing new business

Lubbock, Texas-based Copy Craft ( started small in 1985, as a self-service copy shop. It eventually purchased a Ryobi one-color press, and in the mid ‘90s it decided to launch a full-color operation and market itself nationally, mostly doing business card-and postcard-type items. Until last year, though, all the work was still done on traditional offset presses. Now, the company has three half-size Komori presses, one six-color and two four-color.