What is Production Inkjet and Why Should Designers Care?

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You’ve likely heard the term production inkjet press before — in fact, as commercial print continues to make the shift away from offset to digital inkjet technology, it would be almost impossible to not enter a conversation about production inkjet at one point or another. 

But have you actually stopped and thought about how production inkjet works, or the value it provides in helping you design more effective print projects? Understanding the tool — the press, in this case — that will bring your designs to life can go a long way in helping you use that tool to its fullest extent, which is why taking a moment to get better acquainted with production inkjet should be high up on any designer’s priority list. 

With this in mind, let’s take a quick look at how production inkjet presses work, why so many print shops are onboarding production inkjet presses, and why designers should push for their projects to be printed on a production inkjet press.

The 411 on Production Inkjet Printing
Production inkjet printing usually refers to a high-speed, single-pass digital inkjet press that can execute almost any size print run quickly and with stunning color stability and quality. The single-pass design of production inkjet features a fixed number of printheads that span the width of the substrate, and the ink is laid onto the substrate as it is fed through the press. Not only is this faster and more efficient than multi-pass presses, it also helps create a more consistent end product. 
Production inkjet presses can be web or sheetfed like other more conventional print platforms, but production inkjet presses can print on a wider variety of substrates, and they’re also able to streamline finishing processes like cutting, perforating, and stacking.
What’s more, the digital nature of production inkjet presses makes it easy for commercial printers to use Variable Data Printing (VDP) in order to produce unique, personalized pieces that can help take projects like direct mailers or catalogs to a whole new level. 
Some of the common types of production inkjet presses include: 
  • Monochrome presses, which print in only black and white and are most frequently used for printing books, manuals, and billing statements

  • Web presses, which print large format rolls for applications like banners or large outdoor signage

  • Color presses that use CMYK inks to print magazines, book covers, catalogs, and graphics and full-color images

  • Continuous feed presses, which can create ready-to-bind or ready-to-mail pieces

What’s in it for designers by printing on a production inkjet press?
The name of the game in production inkjet printing is speed, efficiency, and quality, and while these benefits apply directly to the print shop, they also apply to designers in helping them execute creative, quality print pieces with an eye toward reducing cost and production time. However, there are a handful of advantages production inkjet printing offers that are more aligned with the challenges designers face, and the opportunities they can seize. 
First, because production inkjet printing can incorporate VDP, designers can conceive and carry out concepts with customization and personalization in mind. The ability to incorporate almost any kind of personalized data is a powerful tool in creating a meaningful connection with the target audience, and it also helps designers save time and resources in building customized pieces. 
The ability of production inkjet presses to print on a wide array of substrates — both coated and uncoated — with a variety of finishings gives designers the freedom to think outside of the box and explore what can actually be achieved in print. Whereas offset printing comes with some limitations in terms of the inks you can use, production inkjet is compatible with a variety of new and speciality inks to really spark your imagination and creativity. 

A couple of other key benefits for designers with production inkjet printing include: 

  • Consistent, high color quality and stability from printheads that span the width of the substrate

  • Faster turnaround times with print speeds that can produce thousands of color and black and white pages per hour

  • Reduced printing costs as the print shop can simultaneously run monochrome and color jobs on one engine

With this introduction to production inkjet, you not only have the understanding of how this technology works, but you can also see the real-world value in designing to print on a production inkjet press, and collaborating with a printer that puts production inkjet at the center of its fleet.