The Future Of Offset
Will toner-based printing make offset obsolete? No way, say the offset experts. Offset will transform into a more user-friendly, more digital process.
With the final year of the 20th century now well underway, offset press venders are beginning to turn their thoughts toward the future—and it's not as far off as you might think.
For some time, the industry has been beset with hushed voices forecasting the potential demise of offset due to intense competition from digital printing. Not so fast, offset venders insist. The next few years, they say, will bring about new generations of presses so technologically advanced, convenient and attractively priced that successful printing operations will find it difficult not to incorporate them.
"We're looking at a totally automated machine, with a redesign of the inking and dampening system, whether it shifts to waterless or we stick to conventional inks and chemicals," reveals Jon Surch, press products manager at Sakurai USA.
"I think the last holdout of the old offset press will be the inking and dampening system," he continues. "For the longest time we had manual plating, then automatic plate changers, then we went to automatic perfector changeovers and automatic washing systems. Now the basic design of the press has to change in order for the technology leap to make it to the next level."
Rudy Valenta, manager of corporate sales at MAN Roland, agrees.
"The press of 10 years from now will have higher speeds—maybe the same amount of automation, but you'll see a lot of voice recognition," he says. "You will also see total networking, especially with in-plants, where all the files could be sent right to the in-plant."
Such forecasts may initially seem like a haphazard glance into the crystal ball. Most venders, however, note that it's more like a natural progression necessary for the industry to maintain its success than a venture into the realm of Nostradamus.