What is INKJET printing?
Typically, inkjet printing forms images by spraying tiny droplets of liquid ink onto paper. Small size and precision placement of the dots of ink produce very near photo-quality images. Most color desktop printers use an inkjet process. Inkjet printers are often used for proofing as well as signage applications. Inkjet printers can range in size from 8.5 inches to 20 feet or more!
Currently, inkjet printing is the primary printer technology for home, home offices, and many small businesses. Inkjet printers are inexpensive and produce good color output but can be slow. Best results are normally achieved when printing to specially coated inkjet or photo papers.
What is OFFSET printing?
Offset printing is a process that uses various rollers (or cylinders) to transfer ink to paper. Ink and water are transferred by rollers to a metal plate that contains an image. The image is then transferred to a rubber blanket which then transfers the image to paper. The image plate is created using a Computer-to-Plate (CtP) device which uses lasers to burn the image onto a metal plate. Offset printing is well-suited for high-volume projects (long run). Depending on the project and print quantity, offset printing can take up to two weeks for turnaround.
Side Note: The term offset refers to the fact that the image isn’t printed directly to the paper from the plates, but is offset or transferred to another surface that then makes contact with the paper.
What is DIGITAL printing?
Digital printing is a process that uses toner (a type of ink) which is transferred to a belt that transfers the toner to paper. The toner is then fused with heat to make it adhere. In digital printing, an image is sent directly to the printer using digital files such as PDFs and those from graphic design software. This eliminates the need for a printing plate, which is used in offset printing, which can save money and time.
Digital printing is well suited for low volume projects (short runs). Without the need to create a plate, digital printing has brought about fast turnaround times and printing on demand. Instead of having to print large, pre-determined runs, requests can be made for as little as one print. While offset printing still often results in slightly better quality prints, digital methods have improved dramatically in recent years and provide a much lower cost. Digital printing usually has a faster turnaround than offset. It can take as few as 3-5 days, depending on the project and print quantity.
Side Note: Because each printed piece is created electronically, digital printers can be used for “variable data printing.” Variable data printing utilizes a data sheet to customize (or personalize) each printed piece. Variable data printing can be costly, but it is great for high-volume direct mail pieces, invitations, or any other project that requires customization per piece.
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