Digital Printing Leads to Print Finishing Opportunities

by Marco Bigianti and Andreas Lanter, Bielomatik-Matti AG
Anticipated development of the worldwide annual offset and digital printing volume.

The market for print products is changing. Instead of high volume production runs, smaller volumes tailored to individual consumer requirements are in demand. Due to digital printing, such highly personalized media now is economically feasible.

The market for traditional printing processes is declining, as a recent survey on the global printing market conducted by the British research institute Smithers Pira concludes. Digital printing, on the other hand, shows growth (Reference Chart 1). By 2018, digital printing equipment will have a 21-percent market share of the global printing market – with a trend of accelerating growth. It clearly comes at the expense of the “classic” processes like web and sheet-fed offset printing, whose market shares are stagnating or decreasing.

Digital printing is predicted to grow by 26 percent over the next four years (Reference Chart 2). The main driver of this development is the trend to shorter print runs, not only due to new publications in small editions, but also because of “just-in-time” production that only prints the number of copies required or reduces the print job into various smaller volumes.

According to Canon, in the year 2000, almost 40 percent of print products had volumes of over 10,000 copies. This share is expected to decline to 25 percent in 2020. As a result, more than half of the printing products will be in short runs between one and 2,000 copies; and, in 2010, the short run share already was 48 percent.

The advertising industry naturally tries to address potential customers’ messages in a manner that is as targeted as possible and without any waste. Instead of sending an impersonal advertisement in accordance with the “one size fits all” principle, the recipient should preferably receive only those messages which are of interest. These interests would be verified through a CRM database. The consumer himself desires – and orders – individual printed products. It starts with a photo book or a calendar, progresses to a printed pillow case as a gift and leads all the way to having the consumer’s own image on the cover of a magazine. The potential is huge. There are no limits to the creativity of agencies and providers of print services.

Digital printing – what’s next?

Up-to-date and predicted shares of printing technologies in relation to worldwide print production.

It is no surprise that digital printing is booming. A growing number of providers of print services are investing in appropriate systems or at least considering doing so. However, it often is overlooked that simply buying a digital press instead of an offset press and pretending that everything else will resolve itself is not enough. On the contrary, if one wants to take the full advantage of digital printing, it is important to consider the complete value creation chain from a digital printing perspective and to coordinate all individual steps according to the design of the final product.

A proper plan for the print finishing, in particular, often is being ignored, even though this area is very complex and demanding. Should the product be glue-bound? Should a backstitched brochure be developed? Will the final product be wire comb- or spiral wire-bound? Or will the final product be cut, folded and sent as a mailing? Is there anything else that should be labeled or inserted? Should an additional coupon be integrated to tear off? The design of the end product and the necessary processing steps represent a great challenge.

Another factor to consider is time: As a flexible process, digital printing enables considerable yield increases for the entire process. Current inkjet printing technology offers a speed of up to 250m/min from a roll of paper – without the time-consuming set-up time that one faces in offset printing. This advantage must not be wasted in the downstream process, and inline finishing equipment can meet the potential of digital printing via inline processing without any bottleneck in speed or performance. However, many companies utilize individual machinery or stations for various processing and binding methods. Current systems cannot fulfill the requirements of digital printing because of longer set-up times, various unsynchronized production speeds and equipment-related interruptions or shortfalls in the process flow. Also, in many companies a true digital workflow lacks full implementation.

Technology now exists that will result in highly variable inline production. Today’s digital equipment offers modules that can be combined and integrated in a production line according to product requirements. Users benefit from a very fast process and streamlined production, as well as a manufacturing line which utilizes less space than an offline or a nearline production system. Additionally, the inline processing allows for less manpower and a greater level of safety during production due to a minimized manual interference.


Currently, the printing industry is facing structural changes and profound consolidation. The print runs are getting smaller and smaller, with an increasing number of individual print jobs. To be profitable with these order structures, the highest flexibility in printing and finishing – as well as an increased performance in workflow – is required. Overall, inline finishing equipment can result in much shorter turnaround time for orders, resulting in more orders per time unit than with “conventional” production processes. Print finishing companies may wish to discuss with their print partners the opportunities provided with inline finishing processes in a digital workflow.

With Bielomatik-Matti AG (short: bielomatti), a joint venture of bielomatik Leuze GmbH + Co. KG (Neuffen, D) and Matti Technology AG (Sulgen, CH), a new player enters the market to enable printers to address the above-mentioned problems. The purpose of this venture is to combine Matti’s know-how in the integration of digital printing systems with the extensive converting technology portfolio of bielomatik. The Matti Group, headquartered in Sulgen, Switzerland, specializes in the integration of inkjet print heads and systems. Matti develops, produces and sells machines, equipment and solutions for inkjet high-speed printing, including aggregates for the prepress and postpress processes. The machine manufacturer bielomatik (located in Neuffen, Germany) is a leading solution provider of paper processing and plastic welding machinery. The portfolio for paper processing includes cutting and packaging lines for small formats (cut-size), folio-size sheeter for paper, board and foil, as well as security and banknote paper. Furthermore, the manufacturer has production lines for exercise books and writing pads with wire comb-, spiral-, glue-, thread- or stitch binding. Combining the know-how of bielomatik and Matti results in a digital printing and converting solution provider that enables customers to reap the benefits of digital printing and converting to maximize profits. For more information, visit