By Lisa Guerriero
Direct Imaging (DI) presses combine digital technology with traditional offset printing. For many print professionals, this hybrid approach is the best of both worlds, providing high-quality imaging with reduced makeready and offset quality.
DI technology images the chemistry-free plates on press. These devices target jobs between 500 and 20,000 sheets.
DI users say the technology allows them to produce more work without sacrificing quality, and in some cases, allows them to keep jobs in house. They also find DI presses easy to use and maintain, which reduces operating costs.
Graduating to Digital
About two years ago, Eastern Florida State College was known as Brevard College, a two-year community college. When it gained its current name and became a four-year school, Jo Ann Noth, director of college wide printing and graphic services, Eastern Florida State College, realized the printing department had to keep up. Collateral featuring the former name needed replacing, including stationary and signs. In addition, there would be more daily print needs due to increased recruitment and enrollment.
The college’s printing staff saw Presstek’s DI machines at trade shows, and heard about the technology’s efficiency and cost savings through word of mouth and identified DI as its next step. The college acquired a Presstek 34DI in July 2014. It was the first time the department adopted digital printing technology. This was about a year after the school became a four-year college.
Since then it has worked hard to replace all the old Brevard College materials. The DI’s speed and efficiency made a big difference in helping them catch up on the work.
Prior to acquiring DI technologies, the college relied on offset equipment, which Noth refers to as expensive and time consuming. The department sometimes sent work out to local print shops to meet its deadlines. It was challenging to obtain parts and maintenance for its two offset presses. Dealing with the chemical plates and waste removal was also a hassle. “All of that’s gone,” observes Noth. “The DI took care of all that.”
DI technology allowed the printing department to stop farming out work. Even if you partner with a good print shop, you have to forfeit control over how and when the jobs are done, observes Noth. Now, the school controls its own quality. “It’s done to our own standards,” she adds.
Eastern Florida State College improves its production efficiency with DI capabilities. For example, the college creates customized envelopes for each of the school’s departments.
It previously cost thousands of dollars to send out envelope orders. Now, in addition to saving money by handling the work in house, it is able to complete the job efficiently. Every college department submits envelope orders at the same time. The total job is about 50,000 envelopes and is done within a couple days.
The college’s printing department also prints booklets, fliers, brochures, letterhead, and marketing and recruitment materials. Many of these applications were impractical with offset but are feasible with DI technology. It even printed the school’s own graduation program for the first time in decade. “The DI can handle anything we give it,” observes Noth.
The printing department is also pleased with the DI press’ image quality, which meets or exceeds their old offset presses, notes Noth. When it first got the 34DI, the team experimented to test the machine’s limits and were delighted when even heavy black solids came out impeccably.
When printing with offset, the printing department only had two-color machines and sometimes had to rely on copying, rather than printing alone, to complete jobs. “We were burning up our color copier,” says Noth of its Ricoh Pro C901S, used along with two Ricoh Pro 8110 models for B&W output.
Moving the work from the copier and onto a DI press provided a major cost savings. The printing department relies less on the Ricoh copiers, limiting use mainly to faculty support materials such as tests, syllabi, and handouts.
Because the Presstek 34DI is easy to operate, Noth was also able to reassign one of her two press operators to focus on graphic design and bindery, done with a C.P. Bourg machine.
Eastern Florida State College uses its DI press whenever the printing department is open―four days a week for nine and a half hours per day, year-round. Typical run lengths are between 500 and 2,500, although it varies depending on the job.
The printing department plans to keep utilizing DI technology in the future. With the savings from keeping work in house and the reduced maintenance costs, the DI press “pays for itself,” observes Noth.
Growing with DI
DI technology allows the Eastern Florida State College Printing Department to keep pace with the school’s growth. This hybrid method provides the quality it was accustomed to with conventional printing. However, the Presstek 34DI offers greater productivity and efficiency compared to its old machines. The speed and convenience allow the printing department to complete more frequent and diverse output for the college. dps