The Direct Approach
What's the future of offset technology? Find out where direct imaging is taking it—and how presses may eventually shed plates altogether.
Look at the trends: Shorter runs. Faster turnaround demands. Digital job data. Cut-throat competition.
Many printers won't survive. Those that do will have to use new technology to heed these trends.
That's where on-press imaging comes in. It offers everything today's business climate demands: Short-run efficiency, lower costs, faster makereadies and fewer steps.
True, direct imaging (DI) is nothing new; Heidelberg introduced its GTO-DI in 1991. But DI quality has improved since then. New imaging systems from Presstek and CreoScitex have paved the way for more DI presses. At Drupa, some nine vendors showed DI products, a clear statement that offset is heading in this direction.
"The quality is equivalent to conventional offset," remarks Eric Frank, Heidelberg's vice president of marketing for direct imaging and digital printing. Frank was one of four panelists at a seminar on DI held at the recent On Demand Conference in New York. He and representatives from Xerox, Presstek and CreoScitex discussed the benefits of DI, including perfect registration, lower production costs and faster prepress times.
The Cost Factor
The one hurdle that hasn't been cleared, however, is price. Frank says DI presses cost 25 to 40 percent more than conventional models—but he adds that computer chips and other electronic components are getting cheaper. DI presses, he says, will drop in price perhaps 5 percent a year.
"As technology becomes more affordable, it will be adapted more readily," he says of DI.
One sign that DI is destined to stick around is the entry of Xerox into the market. The company showed its DocuColor 233 DI-4 at On Demand and is offering a larger-format press, the DocuColor 400 DI-5, as well.
"We know the digital business better than anybody else in the graphic arts," contends Ron Kendig, general manager of direct imaging for Xerox. "And we think we're in a good position to move people into digital."