Posted by: AG | December 18, 2009

Printing trends: niches

Before we choose the best printer, you should consider the printing industry in general, and two trends in particular that can affect your decision: specialization and proximity.

The first and most important is the degree of specialization within the printing industry has grown dramatically. Like doctors and lawyers, general practitioners in the printing industry are an endangered species. Printers have often developed expertise in a more and more narrowly defined area of printing. This affects you, the print buyer, directly. 

For instance, you may have the option of using specialized services for your production needs: graphic artists, advertising agencies, small print shops nearby, or larger ones further away in some industrial park. And like many areas of manufacture, there are reasons to consider overseas printers.

The quality and price of a job will vary greatly as more printers focus on one particular market, such as catalogs, magazines, newspapers, custom personalized letters, posters, books, calendars, and brochures.

Areas of specialization

You could start by categorizing printers by the print process they use: offset, letterpress, or gravure. Those can again be divided into sheet-fed or web presses, and half or full size capacity. Some presses have “heat-set” capabilities, used for coated papers and others without it, such as for newspapers or letters. A printing firm can have single-color presses and other firms will have much larger ten-color presses, able to handle complex color projects. As you can see, a printer that is trying to focus on the magazine trade, for instance, will need to invest in much more costly and higher speed equipment. And while they could print your color brochure without a problem, the price you’ll pay will be higher since the labor and operating costs for that kind of machinery is naturally also higher.

Print production equipment varies even more than those mentioned. For example, it takes special kinds of presses to run coated papers verses uncoated. There are paper size capacities to consider: some presses have a maximum size of only 17″ while giant presses can go up to seven feet wide. So a company needing a large volume of posters or a magazine would be better off having them produced on a larger press. Paper cost is much less and the press can run at higher speeds, thereby saving time and even more cost.

Bindery capacity becomes an issue on all printing jobs. A small or medium-sized printing company may have to send your job to another company just to do the bindery work, such as folding, cutting, magazine stitching, or book binding. Larger operations that specialize will usually have their own bindery equipment in house, saving the customer money and time while giving them better quality control.

Since the final product, whether a sales package, catalog, magazine, or flier, will require mailing it to your customer, larger firms may be able to handle this phase also if they have their own facility – another cost and convenience factor.

In summary, specialization in the printing industry is a growing trend. Companies often specialize in other products such as forms, labels, annual reports, directories, newspaper inserts, postcards, catalogs, and posters. Therefore it becomes important to examine your needs carefully over the long term and decide whether you’ll be better off with a niche printer with the right equipment or an “all-in-one” service that will handle all of your needs, but will depend on subcontractors for part of the job.

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