Is the Wiki Definition of Digital Printing Wrong?

By | September 10, 2010

Digital printing refers to methods of printing from a digital based image directly to a variety of media. It usually refers to professional printing where small run jobs from desktop publishing and other digital sources are printed using large format and/or high volume laser or inkjet printers. Digital printing has a higher cost per page than more traditional offset printing methods but this price is usually offset by the cost saving in avoiding all the technical steps in between needed to make printing plates. It also allows for on demand printing, short turn around, and even a modification of the image (variable data) with each impression. The savings in labor and ever increasing capability of digital presses means digital printing is reaching a point where it will match or supersede offset printing technologies ability to produce larger print runs at a low price.”

I know that this is supposed to be an interactive medium with feedback ensuring the accuracy but I am surprised by this inaccuracy.  And someone who did not know better would assume it is correct because it has 3 references.

But as the author of two books on this subject I disagree. The most glaring is this “Digital printing has a higher cost per page than more traditional offset printing methods….” That is only true for longer run lengths using digital printing. Everyone knows that you can chart the cost per page for both processes and that there is a cross over point where offset becomes cheaper.

I also take some issue with “The savings in labor….” That also is dependent on the run length as well as the automation and finishing capabilities of both workflows. There are inline features on digital and offset presses that make each very efficient.

I think we need to request changes to this definition. Do you agree?

Howard Fenton is a Senior Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research.

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11 thoughts on “Is the Wiki Definition of Digital Printing Wrong?

  1. Stephen D. Poe

    It’s Wikipedia; no need to lobby to get the next definition in there.
    I’ve done this for some other Wikipedia articles.

    The polite way is to add your comments and concerns into the ‘Discussion’ section for a couple of days to let other people see and perhaps comment back, then to make the edits yourself. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:Getting_started for details.

  2. Elizabeth Gooding

    Thanks Stephen – but I’m also interested in hearing what people think the definition should be. There should probably be a number of subtopics like “production digital printing” or “digital printing for photography”

  3. Stephen D. Poe

    I agree – the OP has taken one small subset of the topic and represented it as the topic. A fairly common problem on Wikipedia.

  4. Chuck

    Folks, you can just log in to wikipedia and edit it yourself. In this case, I doubt there will be a lot of contention as long as what you enter is well written and authoritative. That’s the key.

  5. Elizabeth Gooding

    I know a lot of bloggers who are well written and authoritative – accurate is sometimes lacking. I know that I CAN log in and edit it – I just don’t think I SHOULD. But someone should – probably Howie since he has published extensively on the topic.

  6. Howie Fenton

    Thanks for your vote of confidence Elizabeth. I have to admit that my definition has changed over the years after some interesting conversations about this subject. I think when Frank Romano and I wrote our first book on this subject we were were defining digital printing in presentations as “printing directly to a computer to a printing device”.

    But later we ran into a problem because our definition also included direct imaging presses which were offset and not really 100% digital printing. I talked to other people about this and I remember a a conversation I had with my old friend George Alexander who is a former editor of the Seybold report who made a good argument that the definition should also include the ability to print variable data printing.

    So that would mean that the definition would start by saying Digital Printing is printing done directly from a computer to a printing device that does not use a static image carrier like a printing plate.

    How does that sound for a start?

  7. Dave Young

    I don’t see the problem. The first part of the sentence is correct and so is the latter half.

    “Digital printing DOES have a higher cost per page than more traditional offset printing methods”….” but this price is usually offset by the cost saving in avoiding all the technical steps in between needed to make printing plates.”

    Perhaps the offset and digital cost versus run length graph would help here but since either method has no strict metrics for this definition, generalities have to suffice.

    By the way, isn’t your doing a Wiki lookup on “digital print” sort of like googling one’s own name for the rest of us? 🙂

  8. Elizabeth Gooding

    Howie – I like the shape your definition is taking (and the history is interesting too – reminds me of “what is a document?” discussions from Xplor and AIIM.)

    Dave – great sense of humor. Maybe you should be blogging?

  9. Dennis Beck

    Of course I agree with the issue of cost vs run length. However, I think there is a labor savings in digital vs. press. The operator of an Xerox 700,8000 or for that matter will be paid less-on an hourly bases then an experienced pressman running a 4 color or more press. Furthermore, a pressman normally needs to stay at the press while it is running. Not so with digital. The operator can leave the unit and do other work checking back ever so often. So, no matter which way you cut it there is a savings in digital vs. press. Another issue no mentioned was training. It takes years of experience to develop the necessary skills to operate a good 4 color press. No such required is necessary for digital-training yes but within a week or 2 the operator is trained. Add that to your cost savings.

  10. Dennis Beck

    Of course I agree with the issue of cost vs run length. However, I think there is a labor savings in digital vs. press. The operator of an Xerox 700,8000 or for that matter an IGen will be paid less-on an hourly bases then an experienced pressman running a 4 color or more press. Furthermore, a pressman normally needs to stay at the press while it is running. Not so with digital. The operator can leave the unit and do other work checking back ever so often. So, no matter which way you cut it there is a savings in digital vs. press. Another issue no mentioned was training. It takes years of experience to develop the necessary skills to operate a good 4 color press. No such required is necessary for digital-training yes but within a week or 2 the operator is trained. Add that to your cost savings.

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