Digital printing has been the buzz in the printing industry for several years. Copier and software manufacturers introduced the process with the growth of personal computers. In the last few years, color printing has gotten so good and affordable with PDF files that most customers overlook traditional printing.
The digital process uses four colors of dry powder toner to create all full color images. The images are baked on paper sheets in the digital process. In my view, there are two flaws with digital printing. The process gets expensive when you get over 1,000 images per file. The other is that that the images crack when sheets are folded since the images are baked on the surface.
Traditional printing involves oil or soy-based inks with water to produce clean images. A plastic master sheet is created from a PDF file and used on a printing machine. The machine creates clean images by combing soft inks with water and imprinting as the sheets go through, a rubber stamping process. People of my generation may recall the mimeograph machines used in schools. Traditional printing is a sophisticated process that replaced the old lead type presses and mimeograph machines.
Digital printing makes sense when a customer needs items right away and in small quantities. The images come out dry and ready for wrapping. Traditional printing takes 24 to 48 hours for the images to dry before they can be handled without smearing.
The example below will give you a rough idea of approximate cost of the two processes for most print firms. The prices are based on 8.5x11 sheets printed on one side in full color.
25 digital printed sheets will run around $12.25
25 traditional printed sheets will run around $250
1,000 digital printed sheets will run around $270
1,000 traditional printed sheets with run around $295
2,000 digital printed sheets will run around $500
2,000 traditional printed sheets with run around $375
As you can see, traditional printing becomes more cost effective over digital as the customer increases the quantities.