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Market Trends

Digital Print Applications

For some, digital is the isle to walk down because of its improving capabilities. Genevieve Lewis picks out some of the applications that could be the most profitable for print-service-providers

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Digital print can open doors to a number of different applications – from wedding paraphernalia to more traditional products

The perfect marriage 

Digital print has come on leaps and bounds since it was first introduced, only used traditionally for shorter runs at the beginning. However, as technologies have improved, digital print can be used for increased runs while being more cost effective than before.

Bui Burke, vice president of sales for Screen, explains how digital print has become a more viable option, but admits that it is a difficult question to answer when it comes to specific types of print applications and which ones are the most profitable. He says: “There is no simple answer to this question as it depends on how you define ‘profit’. It is true that when digital printing machines were first launched, their use only made economic sense for high value, short-run applications.”

Bui Burke, vice president of sales for Screen Europe

Burke continues: “However, as the equipment has evolved, the economics have changed making longer print runs more cost effective and developments in areas such as variable printing have opened up new market opportunities.

“If by most profitable you are looking at ‘profit per unit’ then the most digital printing applications are still likely to be those very niche, high value, individual jobs. However, if you are measuring total profit then using digital print solutions for higher volume jobs such as books, labels and some types of commercial print can result in a sizeable contribution to the company’s bottom line.”

Xeretec are the largest partner in Europe of Xerox and will be at The Print Show this year displaying Xerox kit and talking to visitors on how the business can help. Susan Bayne, group marketing executive, argues that actually, all digital print applications could be profitable. Bayne says: “Due to its efficiencies, any digital application has the capacity to drive profit. The key to maximising the efficiencies delivered by digital lies in creating stand-out ideas and content; clients will always see the value in something different or bespoke that creates an impact. They accept that they will have to pay more for items that are unique and help their business to stand out.”

Bayne continues: “Take, for instance, print staples like flyers and brochures. With added embellishments or personalisation, they can command higher prices and hence greater profit margins on top of the savings already made when using a digital device. Printers should also consider the scope for embellishments; the applications for it are so diverse and range from labels, marketing collateral, business cards, greeting cards, wedding invitations, book covers, magazine covers, gift boxes and direct mail.”

Finishing touches from digital print can allow for more specialist applications like baby shower invites, banners and other bits and bobs

The improvement of digital has also fuelled growth, and as Bayne mentioned earlier, customers are willing to pay for the best. She adds: “As devices have evolved to offer ever-more sophisticated finishing options, this has fuelled market demand for them. This means that, today, customers want much more than just print and base levels of personalisation. They really want to see what printers can do for them to make their work really stand out.”

Going to the chapel

The wedding theme mentioned by Bayne is something that Heidelberg has chosen as its theme for the summer with its Versafire kit. Chris Matthews, digital equipment business manager for Heidelberg explains: “The wedding kit is a set of wedding-themed print samples printed on our range of Versafire digital press equipment. There are invitations including printed envelopes, place name cards for the reception, a menu, banners for the event etc. There is also an A4 sheet that comes with the kit showing potential customers how the sample was produced, on which media and which Versafire (EV or EP model) each was printed on.”

The wedding kit from Heidelberg is a set of samples that showcases the Versafire’s capabilities

This is a market that could prove successful for print-service-providers. Weddings, baby showers, hen and stag parties take place every weekend. And as the growth of more American traditions like baby showers becomes more evident, there is a market there. Printed banners, sashes, invites, cards, paper plates, cups, and napkins are all an idea. Here, personalisation could also be key for friends of mums-to-be wanting to make a real splash.

Investing in equipment like the Versafire EV or EP would allow you to produce these products, as Matthews explains: “The Versafire is attracting a lot of attention in the market due to its ability to print a fifth colour as well as CMYK. For example, it’s possible to print white first then CMYK over it in one pass on coloured papers and boards. This makes the EV attractive for printed invitations for example onto a variety of coloured materials.”
The Versafire EP from Heidelberg

Go beyond

But what happens if you want to offer even more? Digital can also offer PSPs the opportunity for embellishments. Xeretec’s Bayne explains: “Many printers may think that the technology they need to offer embellished print is too expensive for them. This isn’t always the case though, as anyone with a digital press and offline finishing can offer their clients some embellishment options. Digital print provides an easy path to this extra revenue stream and it’s a path worth pursing, as demand for embellishment and personalisation continues to increase.”

Digital print provides an easy path to this extra revenue stream and it’s a path worth pursing

 She adds: “Solutions like the Xerox Iridesse – which offers embellishments in a single pass –  are a great investment for printers, as they offer a wealth of finishing options. For printers looking to grow in size, or those larger printers that want to offer even more services, an Iridesse can be core to a company’s future strategy.”

If the Iridesse is a stretch too far for your budget, there is also the Xerox Versant which offers offline finishing that can deliver embellishing solutions. There is also the newly launched Xerox Adaptive CMYK Plus Technology on the Xerox C60/C70 which provides entry-level options to digital enhancement, as it has the ability to print gold, silver, white and clear inks.

The Xerox Iridesse press

The everyday

For everyday print products, Burke says that even the less specialist applications are still there to make a profit. He explains that commercial print production was only considered acceptable for litho, but now digital’s capabilities have put it in contention.

He continues: “In the early days of digital printing, suitable work was limited to vey specialist areas due to economic and technical limitations. Recent advances have resulted in more applications falling within the remit of digital printing.

“Commercial print production is not now automatically considered to be suitable only for traditional litho printing. With the Screen technology it is possible to print directly onto offset coated stocks, with offset quality and productivity, but adding the digital variable and short-run advantages. In the label market, we are seeing more and more work being moved from flexo presses to digital presses. Over 50% of press sales are now a digital solution.”

An example of the type of applications that can be achieved with Xerox equipment

He adds: “The advantages in digital are not only in the printing, but more than anything in the overall automation. For instance, digital collating and printing on the roll enables greatly improved automation of the finishing process.”

Burke also says that because of digital’s continuing advancement, there are so many applications that could prove profitable, it is simply down to your imagination. This could be applications such as labels, packaging, flyers and brochures – products that seam pretty mainstream but can still bring in a successful revenue thanks to digital.

Digital has truly allowed many applications to become profitable thanks to its ongoing advancement. Not only applications such as wedding invites, baby shower banners or cards with embellishments but also more traditional products such as brochures and flyers can also now be printed profitably via digital print.

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