The Effect of Digital Printing on the Printing Industry

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As much of an impact as digital printing has made in recent years it has not been a overnight success. The start for the sake of argument started with the Xerox Docutech and black toner to compete on the very low end of the print market. Because of that most printers did not view it as a threat. Thus a new business model was able to be established, quick printers or franchise printers saw dramatic growth early on. Although very reliable now, the machines were prone to problems early in the technology. The joke was that you bought a technician when you bought the early machines. They became more and more effective and those printers that did not adopt the technology saw there black and white business decline. Most successful printing companies either purchased a Docutech or gravitated towards more color printing which the Docutech did not do. This drove the printing business into more of a retail quick print location or a manufacturing custom job shop for more complicated jobs. Established printers as a whole had a hard time grasping that the lower quality of the toner based machines were acceptable for many jobs and certain customers and the turn time was much better digitally. The total number of printing companies increased during this time if you counted total # of printing establishments.

Then came color copiers, direct imaging presses and the digital press. These did away with the need for expensive plates and makeready time and waste. You sent the file directly to the machine and the first couple of copies were what you were going to get. Again at the very early stages the quality was very questionable and the machines were less than super dependable. Quantities ordered were lower than what commercial printers could get excited about and they could not grasp the lower quantity and lower cost opportunites and quick trun times that quick printers had really started to embrace. The quality continued to improve and the machines became more reliable. The number of retail or franchise printers increased and the number of independent quick printers and commercial printers started to dramatically decrease. There are of course exceptions to this generalization.

This is about the time that quality improved enough and commercial printers started grasping what was happening that they embraced this new found digital color. Now many commercial printers have both offset and digital machines and can service their customers no matter what quantities they need.

Then along came large format printing like Here for one off type large art prints for gifts or even art.

The business will change again. It always has and the successful printers are the ones that focus on their customers needs and balance that with making enough return to support a very capital intensive business.

Written by Buzz Tatom
The Odee Company, Dallas, Texas