Creative and design work has been generated on computer for over a decade. Turning that artwork into finished materials has previously used manufacturing techniques which, with the exception of laser printing, have remained relatively unchanged for a long time. With the new digital presses, the whole process from concept to finished item becomes integrated.
“Digital printing is not a substitute for conventional processes. Although the quality is good, better results could be achieved using offset presses,” says David Houselander, divisional managing director of PSI, the print management division of The Computing Group. “What it does introduce though is a level of flexibility unrivalled by any other technique. This will pave the way for marketing materials which are currently unthinkable.”
Using digital printing, brochure copy and artwork are held on computer and merged with customer data downloaded daily. Product data is updated while it’s still stored digitally and you only print out the finished piece when you’re happy with it.
Digital print should be seen as an addition to the direct mail production panoply. By removing several stages in the process, it increases flexibility and reduces warehousing and pre-production costs. Where time and schedules allow, you can get better results and lower per-unit costs using conventional offset and laser printing. Digital print speeds are about 2,000 A4 sheets an hour, compared with 20,000 to 30,000 for conventional sheet-fed, but costs are higher.
“What it does make possible, however, is something which direct marketers have up to now only hoped for – totally flexible, individual printing which is responsive to daily market changes and customer demands,” says Houselander.
The CD-Rom has now become an essential tool for internal marketing information and for presenting to customers. If you didn’t store information on CD, you’d need VHS videos and a stack of papers and photography which would be very difficult and expensive to distribute to the sales and marketing team. It wouldn’t be as user-friendly either.
“Digitisation also gives marketers the benefit of moving graphics on a small disk, rather than VHS, giving them a sleek presentation in a compact format,” says Toshiba’s Andy Bass.
The next generation of digitalised information will be Digital Versatile Disk (DVD), a technology which has a storage capacity seven times greater than a CD-Rom and will make digitising volumes of information, presentations and film much easier.