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Digital Printing: Financial and Environmental Efficiencies

Digital printing allows businesses to do what traditional printing processes cannot: small, customised print runs. The efficiencies that the new technologies bring are welcome on a number of levels. Because it allows marketers to buy only what they need, rather than having the volumes of printed material set by a third party, the process can be much cheaper. It also means there is less waste, with benefits to the environment as well as a company’s bottom line.

Digital printing and the economies of small-scale

Traditional presses are complex and laborious to set up. Even the most up-to-date ones aren’t really designed to run off just a handful of copies of a brochure or other marketing material. The set-up time and costs mean that they are better suited to larger print runs: the more copies you print, the less those fixed costs affect the end result. The opposite is true of digital printing, which is why it is such a growth area – especially for small and medium-sized businesses.

Digital printing vastly simplifies the printing process. Traditional printing presses require constant attention, chemicals, plates, inks and other materials to keep them running. These are often harmful to the environment in their own right, since there are often toxic inks, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other unpleasant chemicals in use. Additionally, some printing processes require huge quantities of water. Digital printing does away with most of these factors, as well as allowing you to print small quantities of leaflets almost as economically as larger numbers.

Typical reasons for choosing digital printing

What this means in practice is that you cannot economically produce a small number of leaflets or other printed materials using conventional presses. They simply aren’t set up for it. Depending on the supplier, minimum print runs of 500, 1,000, 2,000 or even more might be specified, reflecting the significant initial costs. Essentially, you are paying a large amount of money for the first copy, and then a tiny amount for subsequent ones. With digital printing, each copy might be a little more expensive, but you only pay for what you want.

This means that digital printing is ideal for small print runs: either where only a few copies are needed, or perhaps where a few prototypes or proofs are required before a larger print run. Perhaps it’s a question of printing off a dozen booklets or a small run of annual reports – something prohibitively expensive by conventional printing’s standards.

Not only this, but digital printing is fast. You send a file and it effectively goes straight to the printer, with none of the intermediate stages required when traditional printing presses are involved. If you want something produced by next week, or even tomorrow, this is the only way to go. Conventional printing is just too slow – or else, you’ll pay dearly to have your order expedited.

Less waste, fewer chemicals, better communication

All of this means that digital printing is easier on the environment. Placing an order for printed matter used to mean deciding how many thousand copies to buy – and usually overestimating. Price breaks meant that companies were encouraged to buy far more than was strictly necessary. Many of these would ultimately be recycled or dumped.

Digital printing makes this kind of moral hazard less of an issue. It’s also a cleaner printing process in the first place, doing away with many of the harmful chemicals associated with older print methods.

Lastly, digital printing allows for more effective communication. Smaller print runs mean that money can be better targeted in tailoring the message to individuals and groups of people, rather than creating a one-size-fits-all product – much of which would go wide of the mark as a result and simply be dumped in the bin by the customer.

This article was supplied by, suppliers of unbeatable quality digital printing, and a shortlisted company for this year’s industry leading Print Week Environmental Company of the Year 2011 award.

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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