Can Offset & Inkjet Finishing Live in Harmony?

By Pat McGrew / Published:

For many companies finishing is not a budget item. Those who specialize in offset printing and are growing into inkjet offerings often miss the requirement to assess the current finishing capabilities – both in-house and through partners.

Happy News for a Happy New Year

You may be able to share finishing devices across technologies. The technology behind many finishing options is largely the same regardless of the marking technology, but naturally, you will need to assess your print widths and sheet lengths to ensure that the output from your inkjet marking devices is compatible with your array of finishing devices. You will also want to look beyond cutting, perforating, and folding to identify options for sharing the enhancement and embellishment technologies you may regularly use, including foiling, varnishing, and laminating.

Starting at the beginning, both offset and inkjet presses produce paper in rolls or sheets. Offset presses may be narrow or very wide. Review your finishing capabilities against the sheet or roll width of your inkjet device to determine if there is a match. Paper handling equipment designed for offset environments is generally robust, capable of handling a wider range of paper types and weights than necessary for many devices designed for the digital print environment.

Consider not only paper widths but also capacity when making decisions about sharing equipment. When it comes to binding and stitching, once you get to the desired sheet size, your offset equipment should be capable of handling work produced by your inkjet presses. If you acquire binding lines and other finishing devices built for inkjet presses, and you want to share them across your offset print environment, you may find that there is synergy, but verify capabilities for handling your offset substrates.

Your Opportunity Review

Finishing is more than cutting, perforating, folding, creasing, scoring and stitching. Finishing includes foiling, flood varnishes and spot varnishes, laminating and other enhancing technology. Each has its own set of constraints. Take a look at the many options on the Inkjet Insight Finishing Finder.

Foiling on top of inkjet print can be done, but it requires a clear understanding of which foiling technology is in use, the base substrate, and durability requirements of the final product to determine if foil on top of inkjet print will meet the print quality and durability needs of the client. Your vendors can help you with this, whether you are using in-house equipment or working with a partner. Create light, medium, and heavy coverage inkjet jobs and put them in queue for foiling. You will want to look at the output not only on initial completion, but also after a day, a week, and a month to ensure that the final product meets your needs. Take the time to treat the product the way a recipient would, including bending and rubbing, to understand how the final product will behave out in the wild.

The same requirements to test apply to varnishing. The liquid used to varnish has a chemical makeup that must be compatible with the substrate and the ink so that it sticks and doesn’t peel or change the underlying print quality. Whether it is a spot varnish or a flood coat, testing becomes imperative to ensure that the final product meets its requirements for the customer.

If you are considering die-cutting, the type of machine and its constraints will guide what you can do with your inkjet products. The good news is that die-cutting or cutting with motion cutters, or machines like the Highcon products or SEI PaperOne, are robust and flexible. Whether you want to add kiss cuts or windows, paper weight and machine set-up options will control what you can do.

Your Challenges

Living in a hybrid world, where jobs may start on offset print equipment and then migrate to inkjet, or go the other way from inkjet to offset, is smoother when there is finishing equipment synergy. Remember that synergy doesn’t require that all equipment is in-house. If you are trying to match capabilities, also consider trade partners who may be able to bridge gaps in your finishing environment until you are ready to expand in-house capabilities.

In all cases, however, testing is an important part of the process. If you bring on new substrates or our vendor changes their ink mix, you will need to retest to ensure that your print work continues to meet your standards.

Remember, there are a million questions in inkjet city! Have questions? Ping me on LinkedIn or drop a note to pcm@mcgrewgroup.com.

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Pat McGrew

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