All things offset: Offset delivers on quality and quantity

An excerpt from AP September 2020 – by Printgraphics Printgreen director Nigel Quirk 

Print is becoming increasingly crucial in today’s frantic ‘working from home’ world. Print is an unmatchable experience, a physical product with impact to engage the heart and mind. Having printed pieces that an audience can touch, pick up, and engage with can get businesses noticed amongst the predominantly digital marketing strategies of today.

Combining digital marketing and print shows an ability to cover all customers’ needs. Print can also complement a digital strategy to sell products or services to a specific audience. And, offset printing remains as the most powerful communication and marketing medium we have right now. We have seen our niche magazine titles grow with more subscriptions and catalogues that drive consumers to the Internet.

The basic principal of offset lithography has remained unchanged since its conception. However, what has changed is the dot structure, frequency modulated dots and elliptical dots that have substantially improved the quality of offset.

Also with plate setters, we now have the ability to fingerprint the presses, for a better control of colour. It’s a fascinating process where the fundamentals are the same, but the technology around would now be unrecognisable to the pioneers of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Having worked with both digital and offset, I believe that there is a line between the two. While it is true that the line has moved over the last ten years with digital becoming a vital, cost-effective solution for smaller runs, I struggle to see this becoming a viable option for higher quantities (perhaps with the exception of a nanographic printing press).

On top of the cost-effectiveness issues, there are maintenance and quality concerns as well. 

When choosing between offset and digital print, the main driver is the make-ready costs versus speed. If you have a low quantity or variable information, the only viable option is going to be digital. However, if you are able to get the quantity higher, it does not take long for the running speed of an offset machine to make sense.

The reality is, nothing beats offset print for quality; we have done a few experiments using one-point font size and printing it on both the digital and offset presses. The offset press can capture this information under the eyeglass, where the digital simply cannot render the detail.

Our advice to printers is that you don’t want to invest in offset equipment that competes in the digital space; the value comes in the larger runs where digital cannot and probably never will compete. 

Most digital machines that the average client utilises is the dry toner variety which provides a very different look and feel compared to offset as it’s more prone to cracking when folded and you can lose the elegance of an uncoated sheet.

At Printgraphics Printgreen, we go to some lengths to show quality to our clients before we start a project. While some clients will accept the deficiencies in digital technology because of lower pricing, others will decide to focus on the cost per unit and utilise the larger run to obtain the quality their product is trying to convey.

Printgraphics Printgreen has recently invested in a new Komori eight-colour press, complementing our Komori 10-colour (both A1) press and when paired with our in-house pre-press and full bindery services including burst binding, we offer a unique offset printing solution.

Our investments are supported by skilled staff that give our clients the best service possible.

Our best projects are when we are trying something new. For example, we recently completed a project with one of Australia’s leading publishing designer, Stuart Geddes, where we printed an adapted screen utilising only two PMS colours to create an effect of almost four-colour process with a metallic appearance. This was a great experimental result.

The current COVID-19 landscape has shaken our clients’ purchasing habits as their cost structures have been fractured; we have found all projects have moved on either timelines or quantities. But, companies with strong resolve continue with their marketing communication and are the ones that will be in a stronger position at the other side of the pandemic.

I believe we will have new opportunities post-COVID-19 as companies look for points of difference and authority by turning to what we know consumers trust; print. And offset printing will play an important ongoing role in this new future.

The digital version of the magazine is available here.


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