Digital Printing Viability for Commercial Offset Printers

April 12, 2022

Offset Or Digital?

Offset presses are an effective long-run manufacturing process that is very good at making multiple copies of the same print requests but because of the high cost of plates and make-ready, it is not particularly effective at short runs.

Electro photographic devices (Digital toner) have a different curve with a very flat cost structure that makes them quite effective for short run and quick turnaround work. They also can print a new image on every sheet (rather than reproducing the same image repeatedly, as offset does).

The cost versus run length cross-over curve diagram given below speaks of some very basic truths about different printing processes. Generally, printing more than 200 copies of a document becomes more cost effective on offset than on digital toner, though it depends on a range of other factors (e.g., document type, color usage, and the number of pages etc)


Short vs. Long Print runs length

The line that separates short and long runs varies markedly from one book printer to the next. Book printers with both digital and offset technologies, print runs of 200 books or less on digital presses and everything else on offset presses. The battleground, according to us, is in runs of less than 200 books. Typically, the more units that are required there is, the more likely it is to be printed on offset.

Certainly, run length is a factor. So is page count. Printing 200 copies of a 200-page book and printing 200 copies of a 400-page book are two very different things. While the run length is the same, the book with lesser page count may be printed on an offset press. On the other hand, it might make more sense to print a book with more pages in digital as it will require more plates for offset production. So in many cases, a higher page count works in favor of digital printing

Why Digital Printing (Color or B/W) is gaining Market Share

  • Conventional Long Print Lengths of Offset is declining
  • Short-title Book Printing is increasing
  • Cost Effective for Short Runs/Very Short Print Runs
  • Print On Demand & Just In Time Printing
  • Variable Data Printing or One to One Marketing Collaterals
  • Cost Saving on Storage/Warehouse


Cost Dynamics – Offset Vs. Digital

Here is a cost comparison of a book printed, if printed on Offset & Digital Print. Books Specs: 139.7 x 215.9mm (5.5 X 8.5inch), 304 Pages 1+1 on 70g/m2 Uncoated Paper, Soft Cover 4+0 on 300g/m2 Art Paper (with Lamination)

B/W Text Per Page Printing Charges:

Printing Process No. of Pages Quantity Production Cost Quantity Production Cost Quantity Production Cost
Offset 304 50 53 Paisa* 100 28 Paisa* 200 20 Paisa*
Digital 304 50 20 Paisa** 100 20 Paisa* 200 20 Paisa*

*Production cost in Offset consist of Master/Plate (8 UP’s on 457.2 x 584.2mm(18 X 23inch), Printing & Paper Cost (584.2 x 914.4mm (23 x 36inch) & Standard wastages
**Production Cost in Digital Printing Consist of Printing & Paper Cost & Very Less wastages

Soft Cover Printing Charges:

Printing Process Pages Quantity Production Cost Quantity Production Cost Quantity Production Cost
Offset 1 50 Rs. 38* 100 Rs. 21* 200 Rs. 12.49*
Digital 1 50 Rs. 11** 100 9.35** 200 8.93**

*Production Cost in Offset consists of Plate Reproduction (2 UP’s), Printing & Paper Cost
**Production Cost in Digital Printing consists of Printing & Paper Cost

Workflow – Offset & Digital Printing: