Print Perspectives

Thriving in the "and" era of print

May 28, 2024

With digital presses getting faster and better, digital print is growing rapidly and has reached the tipping point of broader adoption.

However, the buzz about digital cannot obscure the fact that traditional print is still dominant today and will be around for many years to come. In fact, digital printing still accounts for less than 5% of the total number of pages printed globally . Printers around the world have invested billions of dollars in offset presses and other analog printing technologies that they intend to use until the end of their depreciation period, and in most cases long beyond. And, investments continue to be made in offset technology, especially in highly automated sheetfed presses.

For smart printers, it is not a question of either/or. Rather, they understand that they need both traditional and digital production capabilities to meet the evolving needs of the market and achieve continued success. They understand that we are living in the "and" era of print.

Integrating traditional and digital printing: A strategic approach

But what is the best approach for printers to integrate traditional and digital print technology into their operations? The answer is: it depends. Every company is different, operates in a different market environment, faces different customer requirements and has its own unique business vision and objectives. That is why it's even more important to choose a partner with extensive industry experience and expertise to help printers identify their challenges and opportunities and define an effective strategy.

Kodak is especially qualified to provide advice about today's challenges because we understand the entire print shop, from traditional plates to CTP technology and workflow software platforms to cutting-edge inkjet production printing solutions. Kodak can make sure you have the right solution — whether it's offset or digital — at the right time to help you stay productive and profitable during this transitional period.

When it comes to integrating inkjet technology, printers can pursue two basic strategies as outlined in a recent Inkjet Insights article by Elizabeth Gooding: complement and supplement. In the first strategy, inkjet is used alongside existing printing processes to digitally print either parts of a printed product or parts of the entire production volume of a job. For example, short-run book blocks are produced quickly and cost-effectively on an inkjet press, while the covers are printed and embellished on a toner device. In contrast to traditional book printing, inkjet does not require plates, can print entire book blocks one after the other in a single pass and eliminates steps in the overall process. Inkjet production lowers working capital and inventory and helps printers get to cash flow faster. If the book job's volume is significantly higher, the book content is produced in offset.

In the supplementary strategy, a print shop utilizes inkjet to open up new business areas or market segments and/or to offer new production options that are not possible with its existing printing technology. For example, the range of services could be expanded to include the production of lower volumes as a supplement to the high-volume production in offset or the printing of variable jobs with full personalization/customization. An attractive segment for inkjet variable printing is direct mail production with a forecast CAGR of 8% for the period from 2023 to 2028. The drivers of this growth are rising paper and postage costs, which are causing campaigns to shift from offset to inkjet for more targeted marketing.

No matter which strategy a printing company opts for, the next step is to select the right tools for its successful implementation. Kodak offers all the necessary hardware, consumables, software and expertise from a single source to integrate high-speed inkjet with a traditional offset workflow.

The solid foundation: traditional, yet innovative technology

Since most printers still make the majority of their revenue with offset printing, it pays to use the highest quality, most efficient and most productive products available. It starts with KODAK SONORA Process Free Plates, which significantly streamline platemaking, make it more sustainable and enable tangible cost savings both in prepress and on press. In addition, thanks to local manufacturing, SONORA Plates ensure industry-leading quality, a lower carbon footprint and reliable delivery.

Kodak's CTP portfolio includes a uniquely diverse range of models as well as automation and speed options so printers of any size and specializing in any area will find a platesetter solution tailored to their needs. Kodak CTP solutions can be upgraded in the future for even higher productivity, creating a strong ROI and a solution that works for years to come. Utilizing KODAK SQUARESPOT Imaging Technology, Kodak platesetters provide unmatched stability, accuracy and image quality.

Given the ongoing importance of the offset business for printers, it is also important to know that Kodak is committed to continued investment in improving process-free plate technology based on customer feedback and developing highly efficient CTP solutions that can meet today's productivity demands.

Unleashing the future now: continuous inkjet printing

Kodak enables printers to integrate inkjet production printing without having to compromise on quality and productivity. Based on KODAK Continuous Inkjet Technology, the highly automated, high-speed KODAK PROSPER Presses and Imprinting Systems are excellent solutions for producing high-quality work consistently and cost-effectively at full production speeds.

The KODAK PROSPER ULTRA 520 Press is unique in its ability to print its highest resolution at full speed – even for applications with heavy ink coverage requiring glossy paper. PROSPER ULTRA 520 can dramatically drive down costs for companies producing high coverage work on toner presses or looking to migrate offset volume to digital. Even printers who have already invested in other inkjet equipment may welcome the opportunity to expand into new market segments such as high-quality color magazines and brochures with coated and glossy papers, drive down running costs or to achieve greater ink coverage on a wider range of substrates.

With the world's fastest inkjet press, the KODAK PROSPER 7000 Turbo Press, Kodak offers printers the opportunity to replace their web offset printing, which may be struggling with declining run lengths. Thanks to its three optimized print modes, this press offers the highest speed/quality combination available and the ability to support even glossy coated offset stocks.

KODAK PROSPER Imprinting Systems are a great example of how the integration of digital and traditional printing can create very flexible, efficient and cost-effective hybrid solutions. They allow the addition of monochrome up to full-color inkjet imprinting to offset, flexo and gravure presses as well as postpress equipment without compromising the productivity of the entire production line. This option drives significant value; it offers a level of digital production flexibility and variability needed as customers demand more personalization, versioning, and control.

Kodak's inkjet portfolio is completed by water-based KODACHROME and EKTACOLOR Inks and OPTIMAX Primers that have been specifically developed and optimized by Kodak for its PROSPER products. Driving print quality and operational effectiveness for printers, this holistic approach enables Kodak to quickly respond to changing requirements in the development of inks and primers as new substrates are launched or printhead technology advances.

Workflow software: the glue of an "and" solution

Software is the key to the seamless and successful integration of any traditional and digital printing technologies. The KODAK PRINERGY Platform provides a single, integrated and future-proof workflow solution that consolidates production across analog and digital printing processes. It can act as the central hub of a smart print factory enabling central management of jobs using an intuitive interface to create, submit, manage and quality control jobs.

PRINERGY is widely used to drive CTP equipment for traditional printing and connects with the broadest range of digital presses including models from Canon, HP, Landa, Konica Minolta, Komori, Ricoh, Xerox and, naturally, Kodak. The PRINERGY Platform further enhances automation and integration with PRINERGY Business Solutions, which enables easy networking with web-to-print, e-commerce, ERP/MIS, CRM and other 3rd party software.

In today's print world, the key to success is understanding both traditional and digital technologies and the roles each can play in maximizing profitability and capitalizing on new business opportunities. Working with a partner like Kodak, who can provide the right offset or digital solution at the right time, can put printers in a prime position to thrive in the "and" era of print.