Short run printing is no longer the exclusive niche of quick printers or small, walk-in service providers. The applications go beyond producing a handful of flyers, business cards or stationery. As digital print gains ever-deeper mainstream traction, it’s now a mandatory capability for most any commercial printer, packager, converter and POS/POP producer.
Why the big push to short run digital printing? The reasons vary by application and industry – but they boil down to meeting new market demands with new and profitable solutions. The print buyer and end user want less waste, faster turnaround and print materials tailored to segmented audiences – all of course, for less money.
Commercial Digital Printing: No Shortage of Opportunities
Let’s start with commercial printing, which currently yields 37% (about US$332 billion) of the worldwide US$901 billion print industry – combining general commercial printing, direct mail and POP/POS. Since the mid-1990s, digital printing has evolved to spearhead the global transformation away from traditional monotone overprinting on preprinted analog sheets. For example, who hasn’t witnessed the exploding market appetite for personalized cards and calendars? Today’s direct mail, transactional and transpromotional pieces, brochures, flyers, business documents, POS/POP and security pieces are featuring more color than ever and shorter run quantities.
Short Run Publishing: A Classic Success Story
The US$166 billion publishing segment has jumped on the short run bandwagon in a big way. A decade ago, short run self-published books, personalized photobooks and yearbooks were not part of the conversation. Now, they’re multi-billion dollar markets. As information and data changes more rapidly, short run educational and technical books can keep pace with fresh content and frequent reprints in smaller quantities.
Digital Packaging and Converters: Fewer Units, Larger Profits
With the largest stake in global print revenue at US$389 billion, packaging printers and converters have avidly embraced color short run digital print – especially in the food and beverages industry and personal care products segment. You see it on grocery and drug store shelves, particularly in the form of private labeling of popular goods with “house” branding. Digitally produced short run packaging, however, offers a slew of other intriguing uses. Brand managers are clear converts to short run production – it meets their continual challenge to test new foods, beverages, fragrances, or hair products, or to offer the same items in different languages to different buyer demographics. Digital printing has also fueled the expansion of special event or seasonal packaging, as well as co-marketing programs with multiple brands, such as sports teams and athletic drinks.
The Long and Short of Short Run Digital Printing
Individual perceptions of what constitutes a short run can of course vary. For a vast number of print service providers, the number can arguably range from 1,000 to 10,000 units. Above those quantities is where offset still works most effectively. But the short run category is where the growth is happening – and where digital technology rules.
Since Benny Landa introduced production quality digital printing in 1993, the technology has firmly staked its ground and continues to expand. Variable data printing, custom pieces and smaller runs are delivered at increasing levels of productivity and profitability. The current technology has hit a wall however, as today’s digital presses still offer a limited set of substrate and format support and also require special operations and environments.
The Nanography® Process: A Giant Step for Short Run Digital Printing
Benny Landa has authored a new chapter for digital print – in fact it’s a transformative new category for printing. Nanography® technology, built into the new Landa S10 Nanographic Printing® Presses, matches the throughput power, exquisite quality and substrate support of traditional offset printing. They support B1 media formats (41 in./1,050 mm) and print on all substrates common to offset devices.
Landa S10 presses also operate side by side with offset units – no special rooms, operators, or environments are needed. Plus, they offer all of the signature advantages of digital – no make-ready, personalized text and images, quick turnaround, and profitable runs of 1,000 to 10,000.
New service offerings, more customers, and growing profits for printers and packagers – that’s the long and short of it.