Inkjet vs offset

Agfa’s claim on inkjet technology is grossly exaggerated, says Seybold Reports. In view of Agfa’s bold statements in the interview with Jan Van Daele, IT-Enquirer asked Seybold for comments. We also received a statement of Plantin Belgium’s technical specialist. Although you might call Plantin biased — being a Heidelberg distributor and all — the spokesman for the company believes Agfa’s inkjet technology is well behind what offset press is capable of.
Seybold tends to agree with Plantin’s statement. “Yes, digital printing has its applications in the packaging industry’” says Jan Eskildsen, analyst for Seybold Reports.

It’s used for labeling, barcoding, addressing etc. but this goes for the small runs only, where you produce small series, and you maybe want to individualize the packaging, or supply a customer with a few hundred extra. Eskildsen visited Europe’s no 5 packaging manufacturer. They produce thousands and thousands of food cartons each day. Print, diecut, glue, fold, store in boxes and put on pallets.

Eskildsen states: “When I tell you, that their 6-color offset presses (up to format 100 x 140 cm) runs 12.-14.000 prints pr. hour, with 6 cartons on each sheet for müesli or dog or cat food etc, I hope you will see, that digital printers has a long way to go, before they catch up – if they ever do…. because offset is not a static process, the manufacturers strive very hard to get make ready times down and make the machines faster.”

According to Eskildsen, Agfa doesn’t sell “traditional printing presses”. They are preparing to go into other printing segments, and maybe they hope over time to get into new markets with their technology. But offset is not dead, it’s not even nearly sick. “It’s a lot more sophisticated, what you can do today, than let’s say, 6-7 years ago,” he says.

Agfa’s Dotrix and other inkjet printers from Canon, Epson and others can produce high quality prints. “But not as good as offset though,” Eskildsen says. “With offset you can print pictures that look like photographs. Inkjet is still getting better and so is offset.
Inkjet will get faster, so will offset. We already have sheetfed machines running 18.000 sheets per hour ( bigger then A1).”

Finally, Eskildsen remarks that when we look at it from the finishing side (varnish, metallic inks, inline foiling) offset is far ahead.

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