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Digital vs Litho (printing) "Namely, which process will produce a specific job in the most cost-effective manner. In which case, the new King is common business sense, not a technology."


Digital versus litho: just let the best process win

The King is dead. Long live the King.

In PrintWeek's Drupa preview on digital, out tomorrow, that?s the message some digital vendors seem set on proclaiming at the show (with offset litho clearly being the deceased monarch in question).

The digital versus litho debate is one that has been, if not exactly raging, then at least stewing for the past few years. Personally, I don?t think it?s necessarily a question of one being better than the other. Surely it?s more a question of which is fit for purpose.

Digital is the logical option for certain jobs, where there?s variable data or an ultra short run, for example, and litho is the process of choice for longer runs. That?s the presumed wisdom anyway. But even that assumption is up for debate. The exact crossover point of the two technologies? cost effective run lengths depends on who you listen to ? press manufacturers say it can be in the low hundreds, while digital vendors say it?s still well into the thousands.

The question is further clouded as almost every month a vendor comes out with a faster digital machine and, at the same rate of knots, litho press manufacturers unveil a makeready advance that brings litho presses up to saleable print in just a handful of sheets.

Then there?s the tricky question of print quality, but it seems that you?re either of the opinion that digital is comparable to offset, or it?s not and never the twain shall meet. Personally, I think with some technologies it is comparable.

But judging by the number of firms that run both digital and litho kit, the question of which is best is largely redundant anyway. These firms (and they?re increasingly in the majority) have recognised that it makes sense for the technologies to work in tandem and, rather than get bogged down in the subjective question of which is best, they turn it into a simple question of economics. Namely, which process will produce a specific job in the most cost-effective manner. In which case, the new King is common business sense, not a technology.



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