By David Smith
In the past, and for many companies currently, check printing has been slow and expensive. Checks required special stocks, MICR printing – often on dedicated machines or slower mixed-use machines. When checks are only part of the mailing, this often means a separate matching step that further slows down the process. Ideally, checks would be printed in-line with the rest of a job on the same paper and at high speed. This has been a challenge in the past due to the resolution and droplet control on inkjet devices as well as the lack of MICR capabilities.
The challenge of printing checks digitally from a blank roll at relatively high speeds has been overcome due to the higher resolution of the Drop-On -Demand (DOD) print heads and the development of a jettable MICR ink. Resolution of 600 X 600 is now very common at speeds of up to 600 feet per minute when producing output that doesn’t require MICR, but when printing checks the speeds are more in the 400 feet per minute range. While these speeds are not comparable to the offset space, they are significantly faster than the traditional cutsheet and continuous EP devices commonly used to produce checks digitally. With the higher speeds, and the ability to print from a virgin roll, the overall cost of check production can be significantly reduced using the latest high speed DOD printers.
Jetting the MICR ink initially caused a significant reduction in print head life, but manufacturers have been able to resolve the excessive wear issues through improvements to the print heads plates. Other recent breakthroughs in the production of digital checks from a blank roll include:
- Integration of selective perfing equipment
- Ability to use a 20# bond or 50# offset sheet
- Digital pantographs
- Micro printing
- Drop out inks
The ability to use a 20# sheet can significantly reduce your postage spend in a multistage per envelope scenario. At DST Output, initially we were advised that we would be required to use a 24# sheet, but in our testing and in the validation process we discovered that a 20# sheet meets all bank processing requirements. The use of a digital pantograph, drop out ink and a micro print line meets the three security features requirement allowing for use of the Padlock icon on your digital checks. The digital pantograph is a license that needs to be purchased annually at the printer level and each printer needs to be individually Check Payment Systems Association (CPSA) certified.
In testing the MICR signal strength at DST Output over a 18 month period, the readability level has far exceeded CPSA specifications and is consistently better than what we experienced using EP printers. In those 18 months of check printing we have produced over 10 million checks without a reported issue in terms of readability from our client’s service provider. We are now printing checks at 800 pages per minute versus 150 pages per minute and our costs on white paper at that speed are quite a bit lower than what they were on preprint. Getting more mail produced in one day has the added benefit of increasing postal density and reducing postal costs for our clients.
Overall, digital check printing on white paper has become an everyday non-issue allowing for reduced cost and quality that meets or exceeds US banking requirements.
David Smith is the Operations Director for DST Output in El Dorado Hills California.