Substrate Limitations Left on Digital Presses?

By | April 20, 2012

Over the years, much has been made of the fact that digital presses can only run pre-approved stocks, thus “limiting” creative options. These complaints have come primarily from the graphic design community.

Although technically there are still limitations, I think most of us would agree that this is more of a printer’s issue than a design issue. As I wrote in “Digital Printing: Transforming Marketing and Print Management“:

In practice, these limitations are only valid in unusual cases. If a designer wants a specific stock from a specific manufacturer, there is a chance it might not be on the list of approved stocks, although the list is always growing. But if you only want a specific shade and finish and aren’t looking for something crazy like recycled confetti flecks, chances are, you’ll have quite a few options to choose from. For the overwhelming majority of business and marketing applications, the availability of stocks is a non-issue.

Where stocks remain a challenge, of course, is in magazine and catalog publishing, which rely heavily on coated stock. The range of coated stocks is still more limited than uncoated, and because of the traditionally heavy coverage on these products, magazine and catalog publishing requires careful vendor selection and a focused, dedicated effort to establish a workflow that meets the requirements for production quality, substrates, and speed.

I’m loving the interaction that my posts on the “where are we in the digital print evolution” is generating. So where do you — personally — still find challenges with substrates? What’s on your wish list for paper and digital press vendors to provide? How does high-speed inkjet change the equation for you?


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One thought on “Substrate Limitations Left on Digital Presses?

  1. Heidi Tolliver-Walker

    I posted links to this post on LinkedIn, and in one of the digital printing groups, one of the members runs several HP Indigo web presses with HP’s inline substrate priming unit prior to the print engine, which — he said — “(theoretically) means the range of usable substrates is broader.”

    Also, he mentioned Hunkeler anticipated launch (at this year’s Drupa) of a primer / coater”module that can be included either pre or post print. “I haven’t seen one of these, but I can see that it may considerably change “how” you might achieve the desired results.”

    My question is whether, on the ground, these units actually broaden the range of substrates significantly or whether there is still a recommended range of substrates to be used even with these inline units.

    Anyone here have experience with these units?

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