Print on Demand
There's no one answer, and some POD operations may have more than one kind of printer or press. In the past three segments of
this article, we caught an overview of the market, took a step back and looked at alternatives to digital presses, and
examined the many ways printers find their way into the POD market. We wrap up this series with a look at how some of these
choices are holding up to demand, and how to decide if an investment in a POD solution is right for you.
For short run, full color offset output that's economical and uncomplicated, there is a role for DI and its filmless cousin,
computer-to-plate (CTP) printing. A four-color offset DI press exposes printing plates
on the press itself. CTP produces printing plates directly from the computer without requiring film as an intermediate step.
The DI market saw a lot of change this year. Mainstay Presstek moved to a more direct role, while another leader, Heidelberg,
edged away from DI toward CTP. Presstek went from OEM to system manufacturer with the Presstek 52DI. It uses Zero Transfer
Printing for extremely accurate color registration on a wide range of stocks.
Where Heidelberg Is Headed
Citing falling placements, Heidelberg has largely taken itself out of the DI picture and will stop manufacturing its
Quickmaster DI and Speedmaster 74 DI products but will offer remarketed units. Refurbished DI presses provide a path to
four-color work for smaller shops that can't afford both a new press and CTP.
Far from abandoning POD, Heidelberg feels well positioned in the market. "Heidelberg
offers a variety of prepress, press, and post-press solutions that can meet the capacity of shops of all sizes," says Joerg
Daehnhardt, Heidelberg director of product management. "The recent announcement of the new two-up Suprasetter and workflow
targeted at smaller shops underlines the importance that Heidelberg places on this market segment." Heidelberg believes
Anicolor inking unit will dramatically reduce make ready time and reduce waste by 90 percent, according to an InfoTrends
analysis of the direct-to-press sector.
Plenty of Players
That still leaves plenty of DI players like Kodak, Ryobi, RISO, and Screen. "Our focus on high speed, low cost output will
increase our application appeal across many areas of POD," says David Murphy, RISO director of duplicator business. "Our
high-speed color printers and printer-duplicators have many press capabilities, but don't require press operators."
RISO's printer-duplicators can produce spot color for approximately a half-cent per impression and print at up to 180
ppm. They print on most media weights and envelope sizes. "The ‘sweet spot' applications for our high-speed color printers
include full-color imaging in addition to monochrome and spot color. These applications aren't driven by run length and may
include variable data," Murphy says.
A Contrarian View
George Alexander, longtime chronicler of the digital marketplace and now with the PODi
organization, remains cautious about the role of DI in POD. "DI presses have never really found a home in the market," he
states. "The only real opportunity for DI technology to gain market share, in my opinion, is to exploit its relative ease of
use. Conventional presses require skilled operators and have a long learning curve. DI presses are largely automated, and
operators don't need to know about plate registration, ink and water balance, dot gain, ink key settings, and the like."
"This suggests a market among fast-growing digital-only printers who need the capacity for longer runs. Once a toner-based
shop starts to receive a lot of jobs in the 3,000- to 10,000-impression range, offset printing becomes attractive, and a DI
press is a much better fit for that environment than a conventional press." To reach this market, he says vendors need to
call on prospects outside their traditional commercial printing market. "That's really the only opportunity I can see, and
that market will only last as long as high-quality digital color devices remain comparatively slow and expensive to
Is there a place for offset-type systems in print on demand? It depends on who's doing the talking, or maybe who's doing the
selling. Next week, we feature our third segment to the series, focused on the many ways digital printers find their way to
Related Tags: digital printing, indoor, poster printing, banner printing, ondemand printing, same day printing, plan priting
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