This method of printing is ideal for shorter runs of colour and black-and-white work. Unlike most other printing processes, it does not require film or a printing plate to be made. Instead, it takes a file and transfers the image digitally to the printing device.
Dispensing with the printing plate reduces the start up cost, although the cost per copy is higher as paper and the special ink/toners generally cost more than for offset litho. As there is no printing plate, data can be changed from one impression to the next and this can be done in colour rather than just black and means the recipient can receive a truly personalised product with type and image different to all others in that run.
Digital printing quality is often slightly inferior to offset, particularly when the job has large areas of flat tints or solid colours. However, this is a rapidly developing technology and we can expect that quality standards will soon match those of offset litho for both black and four colour work. It is predicted that digital printing will grow dramatically as presses and consumables become cheaper and quality improves. Digital press manufacturers believe that quite soon, the break even point with offset will increase from 500 to 3,000. The two main methods of digital printing are laser and ink-jet.