The Migration from Offset Printing to Digital

If you’re a longstanding offset user, then migrating to digital print production can be a daunting prospect.

Choosing to invest in reelfed digital is a game changing decision for your business. Digital printing is the new technology proven to outperform sheetfed in speed, quality and ultimately profitability.

We believe that printing with digital technology will be the only viable choice when investing in new capital equipment, add to this the innovative SC inks the choice is obvious – but we’ll go into more detail on what the SC inks are later.


What’s the difference between offset and digital?



Offset printing, also known as lithography, uses a traditional transferral process to apply ink to paper.

In the first step, the image is burned onto four individual aluminium plates – CYMK, one for each.

The plates apply ink onto impression blankets, from which the paper is passed through and the image subsequently transferred onto.

Digital printing applies ink directly onto a surface using toner or liquid ink.

This process skips the plates and inking up onto blankets for want of flexibility, speed and efficiency.


Digital is king – here’s why

Your handy guide on making the move from sheetfed to reelfed

Impassioned lithographers will make a hardened case for offset over digital. In the early days of digital printing, inkjet and the likes were considered glorified office printers. It was a fair assessment at the time.

But that was then, and this is now. In the near 30-years since its inception, this modern method of printing has come on leaps and bounds, greatly surpassing its clunkier offset cousin.

Digital printing still follows the same concept as a domestic inkjet printer but it’s much bigger, much faster and much more precise.

Whilst the creative journey of offset and digital differ massively, the finished product is indistinguishable to the untrained eye. Up until recently, offset’s biggest case against digital was economies of scale, with offset considered more economical for longer print runs. But SC inks has diminished that argument.

Now, deciding which route to go down lies more in process efficiency above all else. Again, it’s a battle that digital wins hands-down.

The Truepress 520HD with revolutionary SC ink technology

Setup and press make ready
Offset is seriously disadvantaged before production can even begin. In order to set up an offset print run, you need to prepare the plate – something that is both time-consuming and inflexible.

Once the plate is in place, it cannot be modified. The operator also needs to use “make ready” sheets to ensure correct colour balance and ink density. This process incurs a large material cost. Digital doesn’t have any of these problems because the image is created electronically and the printed image has the correct colour balance from the first sheet.


Without the need for plates, blankets and all the laborious setup time that comes with offset printing, turnaround time is shortened considerably. As a result, manpower is also reduced, saving money and time and allowing busy printers to realign resources elsewhere.


Changing information mid print-run
Furthermore, the simple setup of digital, allows for several versions of a printed item to take place in one print run. Dates and times, even images, are all things that can be altered mid-print job. This is simply not possible with offset. You’d have to stop the press, change the plates and start again.

Reduced maintenance time
As inkjet printing is contactless it comes with a host of other benefits, of which one is reduced wear and tear because of the absence of items such as blankets and packing sheets.

Variations in print
Offset printing relies on a delicate balance of ink and water, which inevitably results in inconsistencies in the final print. Digital printing doesn’t have this problem.

SC inks solve the ultimate printing puzzle

Previous limitations on inkjet printing have been detrimental to print quality, running costs, and return on investment. Inkjet-treated coated stocks remain significantly more expensive than untreated ones and likewise, pre-treatment of a more economic offset coated paper add to the cost and process complexity.

But SC inks have now eradicated this problem, enabling printers to use offset coated stocks in a digital press – more specifically, the Truepress Jet 520HD. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s gloss, matt or silk.


How you ask?

The Truepress Jet 520HD with SC ink incorporates revolutionary adhesive enhancements to ink, printhead control and screening, to allow printing on commodity coated papers at high speed with water-based inkjet inks. SC inks stand out due to their ability to preserve the texture of commodity paper with astonishing results.

SC ink brings together a host of benefits previously isolated to individual products, including:

  • Greater expression using paper textures: SC inks maintain the integral texture and feel of coated paper, significantly expanding print application potential.
  • Low cost solution with faster turnaround: Screen’s unique absorption technology cuts out the pre-processing stage, minimising times and cost whilst maximising economic viability.
  • Photo like quality for print: SC inks also feature properties that include superior water, heat and light resistance, as well as a wide colour gamut that closely approaches offset types, making it very suitable for products such as coffee-table books for example.
  • Printing on a wide variety of paper types: Printing is still also possible on a wide range of non-coated papers, including standard and specialised inkjet types. Thanks to this versatility, you can now use various paper types on the same press.


Find out more about the implications of reelfed printing here