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Are your printing costs too high? If so, maybe you’re using the wrong process. Small businesses with runs of 500 copies or less can cut costs with digital printing, a low-cost alternative.
Xerox, an early entrant in the arena, estimates that the multibillion-dollar digital printing market grows more than 10% each year. To capitalize on this trend, many print shops have acquired digital machines to offer flyer, booklet or book printing in numbers well below the minimum quantities that traditional printers require.
Because of several fixed costs in printing, traditional offset printers must produce a minimum number of copies (around 500 for documents, 1,000 for books) for their work to be cost-effective. For a customer seeking limited quantities, these minimums can turn a print purchase into an unnecessary strain on cash flow, especially if he or she is paying for storage space. “Traditionally, people have paid to print more than they need and they end up storing their money in boxes,” says Cheryl Waters, president of BCP Digital Printing in Baltimore.
The digital press is a computer-driven machine that pulls images from electronic files rather than printing plates. The text and layout of a book, for example, can be stored on disk and printed out as needed. Since it does not require the labor, materials and setup time of a traditional press, consumers get printed materials without placing large orders.
Reduced digital press setup and maintenance requirements can also translate into minimal costs for the consumer. The setup charges for digital printing and traditional printing are $130 and $500-$800, respectively.
Waters believes digital printing also offers flexibility because it gives consumers the power to cheaply correct, update and reprint materials. “Plus it produces a significant time savings,” she says. For example, with digital printing, books can be produced in a matter of hours as opposed to a two-to three-week turnaround with traditional printing. And with recently developed “variable data” features, digital printers can change information such as addresses on every piece of mail as they are printed.
There are some warnings to heed when going digital. The manufacturing cost for traditional printing decreases as quantity goes up, but with digital printing, it remains constant. When quantities run in the thousands, digital can become the more expensive choice.
Also, since many digital presses use toner instead of ink, the quality of full-color digital printing usually does not match that of traditional printing. Still, if demand for a color piece is in the one to 100 copy range, digital printing provides the most affordable option.
Fran Allen, president of Allen Professional Group in Baltimore, says using digital printing allowed her to cut costs on workbooks, brochures, business cards and flyers. “It was a problem when I worked with traditional printers because the workbooks l printed were all customized for individual workshops and could only be used once,” says Allen, a motivational speaker who directs various seminars. “So if I had to get 30 copies more than I needed to meet a printer’s minimum, they all ended up as waste