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The end of the 1,000 copies era

by Zamir Bar Lev
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The publications market is one that digital printers with vision have begun to explore. A market of high-volume production, in its traditional form is an unlikely sector for digital printing, which is associated with short runs. However, Zamir Bar-Lev, founder of Printiv Press, of Jerusalem, Israel, has successfully moved into this market and used it to expand his business.

When Bar-Lev first saw a digital press, he was running an advertising agency and recognised how this technology could change his business. What Bar-Lev saw was not how digital printing could do what was already being done conventionally, but how it could create new printed products which had never before been possible to produce.

Thirty years later, Printiv Press has grown from five to eighty employees. Always dedicated to quality and innovation, Printiv’s choice to go digital was an easy one. It had been supplementing its offset capabilities with digital printing for ten years, but it wasn’t until the company acquired an HP Indigo press 5500 in early 2008 that a real breakthrough was made and the company began the shift to end-to-end digital production. Fifteen months later, it upgraded to an HP Indigo 7000 Digital Press and acted as a beta site for the new web-fed HP Indigo W7200 Digital Press.

Combining offset quality with high productivity, the HP Indigo W7200 Digital Press is a colour web press focused on the needs of the publications market. Printiv eagerly signed on as a beta site for the new HP solution, drawn by its on-demand and short-run book printing capabilities. In particular, the HP Indigo W7200’s long format provided the production flexibility for book printing that Printiv was looking for. It is this long format that has allowed Printiv to begin shifting its book printing to an increasingly digital platform.

Printiv also has its eye on the rapidly growing niche market for self-published books. It has been able to produce cost-effective projects ranging from a print run of forty 1,000-page, case-bound volumes, to full-colour, high-quality art catalogues with variable data content of runs of several thousand copies.

As a beta operator, Printiv has provided direct input for fine-tuning the HP Indigo W7200 Digital Press. For example, Printiv suggested retaining the terminology and size standards that are familiar to its book industry clientele. HP agreed that this was an important consideration, and adjusted the W7200’s roll size to a 35cm width.

“Traditionally, book publishers in smaller markets have had to do print runs ranging from 1,000 to 5,000. This is because offset production is too expensive for shorter runs, not because of actual market need. Now, however, a book publisher can test the markets with very short runs before committing to further cost.” — Zamir Bar-Lev, founder of Printiv Press

Achieving a smooth finish
At the time Printiv Press first looked at the HP Indigo W7200 Digital Press, the most common finishing configurations were roll-to-roll or cut-and-stack. Since Printiv would be adding the HP Indigo press to an existing conventional book printing operation with a full bindery, Bar-Lev was looking for a finishing solution that would integrate smoothly and effectively.

“After some research, we chose a cut-and-fold from MBO/EHRET Control that provided us with an EHRET Control Cutter that is connected in-line with an MBO folder,” Bar-Lev explained. “Our existing equipment was working with signatures, so we are able to handle output in the same way as that from our offset presses. The only difference is that the digital copy comes out folded and collated, so it is ready for perfect binding, saddle stitching, or sewing for hard-cover books.” Unlike conventional offset printing, the ink from HP Indigo presses is completely dry and no waiting time is required before finishing takes place. This means that Printiv is able to achieve very fast turnaround times, even starting the binding before the printing is complete.

Choosing the signature as the end product of the digital line means that Printiv can retain flexibility in its finishing options, with the ability to use any binding method without the need for additional equipment. Printiv can create signatures up to 2.08m long that can comprise 32 pages (17 x 24cm) or up to 16 A4 pages. These signatures have the same page volume as Printiv’s full-size, B1 offset press that prints in formats of 100 x 70cm.

Bar-Lev explained how book printing on Printiv’s HP Indigo W7200 Digital Press compares to the offset books he prints: “For a typical 200-page A4 book run of 500 copies in full colour, it would take one day to expose 100 plates via a CTP device; one day to print 25 runs of 500 copies; six hours to allow the ink to dry; folding and collating signatures – one day. With the HP Indigo W7200 Digital Press connected to our cutter and folder, we can achieve the same result in ten hours, including set-up and pauses in production.

“This saves time and money, increases productivity and provides a cost-effective result for our customers and improved margins for us.” Bar-Lev concluded, “Short run digital printing can reduce costs and environmental impact when compared with offset printing as it uses paper more efficiently. Offset printing processes produce a considerable amount of chemical waste, the proper management of which is both time consuming and costly. With digital printing my experience is that waste is significantly reduced, reducing time and costs associated with clean-up and waste management.” 
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