Digital print’s not about to feed offset a copper-coated peanut
By Jacques van Wyk, COO of Ricoh SA
You want to transform your business, you want to optimise your business, and you want to expand your business. Those are the three most often repeated requirements we hear from print service providers (PSP) today and they herald a future where digital and offset devices, far from killing one another off, form a symbiotic relationship.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of digital is that data can be easily stored and updated, allowing changes to be made as needed, thus reducing the scope for waste. But while compelling, the benefits of digital actually highlight the significant value of offset printing. Good for long-run jobs with static content, the combination of digital and offset enable print service providers to become one-stop shops.
Transformation means integrating digital and offset, optimising means more efficient workflows (in a digital and offset cohabitation), and expanding means more lines of business (based on both digital and offset) and more customers.
The trick to achieving all that is to harness the power of digital print, data, and innovations for multichannel production and communications. And the key is connectivity across platforms and technologies, including cloud, digital, and offset-based systems. But that’s easier said than done.
Or at least that was in the past. One of the ways we’re changing that, as an industry, is a much tighter collaboration. For example, we’re working closely with Heidelberg and you can now get the Prinect Digital Front End (DFE), a workflow package for the toner-based digital cutsheet presses that provides pre-press, press, and post-press setup and finishing and processing. And one of the major benefits is that it ensures colour consistency between digital and offset presses.
That really helps PSPs when they have an urgent long run, for example, making them able to begin output and delivery rapidly while continuing the remainder of the job on the more cost-effective offset devices at a later stage. Or they can provide customers with a long run batch of product for more immediate, but less urgent, use and thereafter provide product in a more on-demand fashion.
It really cuts out the rendering experimentation that used to be the painful hallmark of hybrid environments. And the modern technologies that enable this are getting cleverer: they’re incorporating features like controlling post-press issues such as creep, spines, gripper fold and binding lap as well. And the best part is that you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to drive it all.
Advanced technologies are great but when you need an army of scientists to make it work it’s actually quite pointless. The Apple ecosphere of consumer products wasn’t the first, but is probably one of the best known today, that showed us people want technology that’s simple and easy to use and makes their lives easier, simpler, and faster. That design philosophy is what we’re seeing emerge in the production print environment today. It’s rapidly evolving from the embryonic stage and, while still young, is quickly accelerating to maturity.