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In addition to the traditional offset sheet-fed and web presses, many printers are now incorporating digital printing devices in their work flows. Digital presses offer some advantages, including affordable short runs and the ability to use variable data. Each impression can have unique text or even separate graphics. And a lot of digital presses include options for in-line binding, such as saddle stitching. In their first incarnations, toner-based digital presses were frankly little more than glorified copiers. But their capabilities and quality have increased greatly over the years.
And digital presses now compete with smaller offset presses, especially for short runs. There are some size and color limitations. Now the Xerox iGen, for example, takes about 14 x 22.5 inch stock. And that particular press has no option for spot colors. However, the toners that are used on it and other digital presses actually have a wider color gamut than offset inks. And what that means is that these presses can sometimes do a better job of rendering approximations of spot colors than offset presses can with CMYK.
Some digital presses except only cut sheet paper sort of like sheet-fed presses. Some like the Indigo presses from HP except roll stock. Some of the indigo options include the ability to print beyond CMYK by adding orange, violet and green inks. And other options may include custom mixed toners and sometimes white toners for printing on dark or metallic stocks. Again, the limitations are the limited stock sizes, you're also limited to certain kinds of stock with some of these presses. And they require temperature and humidity controlled environment, you're not going to see these presses out on a noisy press room floor.
As quality has increased, digital output has begun to rival offset printing especially when in-line coatings are applied. You've probably seen some online photographic services that provide the option for photographers to create limited numbers of printed and bound books of their work. Those are created on high-end digital presses. In fact, the next time you see one of those, examine it carefully, and I think you'll see that the quality is indistinguishable from offset work. You probably have any inkjet printer right there on your Desktop. I remember paying about $800 for a 300 dpi inkjet printer about 20 years ago. And I thought it was amazing that I could finally print color, even though it took a while. But now professional inkjet printers are making their mark on a wide variety of surfaces from large in-store banners and outdoor displays to vehicle wraps. Special pigments and papers are used on some inkjet printers to create Fine Art Giclee Prints.
And inkjet devices can even print on ceramic tiles, wood and they can even print on food. Yes, there is edible ink. The grand format printers can image substrates up to 16 feet wide. These digital devices give you the opportunity to print jobs that would have been prohibitively expensive or maybe even impossible just 10 years ago. But they're part of the continuing evolution of print.
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