Variable Print on Traditional Offset Equipment: OK for the Long Run!

I’ll bet the first word that comes to your mind when a client says “variable printing” is “digital.” And I guarantee the first word that comes to your client’s mind is “expensive”! The funny thing is that printers have been doing variable printing on traditional equipment for decades. It’s just when digital printing came around that we forgot all about it. The ease of digital printing has made processing complex variable print runs simple, but this comes at a price that is very prohibitive to long runs.

When HP came out with its inkjet web press, many people, including me, were in awe. This piece of equipment has so much potential that I won’t even begin that discussion now. After that initial “love at first sight,” I began to think of where the technology originated. That’s when it dawned on me: Kodak has been retrofitting traditional web presses and bindery equipment with inkjet heads for at least 20 years. Sure, it was primarily only black ink being sprayed, but this was variable print on analog equipment!

Just recently, Kodak and a few other companies have been installing color heads on web presses at trial locations. So, you might ask, what does this mean to me? It means that we can affordably manufacture variable print in very large quantities. Just think–on the same press, on the same pass, you could print your static four-color plus the variable content, including the mailing information. What this basically translates into is blank paper rolls going in one end of the press and a finished, mailable product coming out the other! Don’t think this is low quality either; most heads are laying down 1200 dpi images and text.

So, the next time you’re working on a piece that is headed for a web press, think about adding variable. It won’t cost you a boatload more, and according to industry metrics, it should boost your response rate by more than 500%!

When is the last time you received a piece of mail at home with variable content that wasn’t digitally produced?


Author: John Mehl


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