Home > Adtec explains > Adtec Explains…. the difference between digital printing & lithography

Adtec Explains…. the difference between digital printing & lithography

digital printing

We thought we’d talk about two services that we offer – digital printing and lithographic printing – and the difference between the two of them.

Litho printing, also know as Offset printing works on the basic principle that oil and water do not mix. Lithography was patented in 1799. A flat stone was treated in a manner so that the image areas attract the oil-based inks and the non-image wet areas repel the oil-based inks. When the stone was pressed against the surface to be printed on, the oily inked image areas left an imprint of the desired design. In 1903 a new era of litho printing emerged, which used photographic metal plates and a three roller offset press.
Nowadays the ability to produce plates digitally has made the job considerably quicker, and modern computer controlled presses can speed up the process of colour control and getting plates into accurate register. However, this setting-up process is still quite expensive when compared to digital printing. The inked image is transferred (or “offset”) from a plate to a rubber blanket. Then the image is transferred to the printing surface. The flat image on the plate carries the oil based ink from the ink rollers, while the non-printing area attracts a water-based film (“fountain solution”), keeping the non-printing area ink-free. The inked areas built up to the final print result.

Digital printing is a four process colour reproduction method that uses electronic files and dots to produce an image using ink and toner. It is basically a ‘print straight from disk’ process. The computer works in sync with a digital printer to produce a smoothly finished image. Unlike litho printing, no printing plates are required. There is less waste of chemicals and paper, because there are no need to check colour levels and to check for registration and position.

Advantages of Digital Printing
– It is cost effective for small print runs, because there is less initial setup involved
– From digital printing, digital machines can do finishing such as creasing and folding, perforation and/or stapling
– Individual sheets can also be personalised as they are printed with a sequential number, name or address

Disadvantage of Digital Printing
– It has no UV protection film coating. This means that the prints are not fully protected from environmental effects such as heat or moisture. This can be solved through laminating or encapsulating
– Litho printing produce better tints, gradients and large solid areas of colour
– Digitally printed materials can be ‘overprinted’ if put through a photocopier or a laser printer repeatedly the toner can re-melt

Really litho printing vs. digital printing is a question of which fits the needs of your job best!

You can read more about the print services we offer here.
If you’d like to talk to us about a print job please call +44 (0)20 7837 6714 or email info@adtec.co.uk and we will do our best to solve your problem.


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