And made issues such as productivity, efficiency, and speed all more critical than ever before. And for many shops, the answer may very well be to install digital B2 printing and finishing equipment.
The B2 size won’t be unfamiliar to most commercial printers used to running offset equipment. The 29-inch, “half-size” press is common in shops of all sizes, but until recent years, digital inkjet presses were limited to the smaller A3, limiting the usefulness of the platform, or requiring shops to rework how jobs were impositioned to fit them onto the smaller sheet size. This delay in time and money in many cases outweighed the benefits of a digital press, such as personalization or shorter runs.
With the rise of digital B2 presses, now the vast majority of work a commercial printer is producing on offset equipment can be easily shifted, so those benefits are suddenly much more attractive. That said, one of the roadblocks that was still holding many back from adopting was the lack of corresponding B2 finishing options for these new presses. That has now changed, with new, high-speed, digital finishing options in the B2 format allowing upgrades to speed and productivity across the entire operation for the first time.
That said, there are a few major points to consider as to why digital B2 equipment is gaining in popularity so quickly. Just a few of the applications that can be easily shifted from offset to digital with these new options includes:
- Books, brochures, and catalogs
- Oversized direct mail pieces
- Posters and calendars
- Pocket folders
- On demand packaging
- Custom shaped cards, postcards, and more
- Signage and floor graphics
- Prototyping and sample production
And these are just a few of the application types — when digital B2 finishing is added to the mix, the possibilities only grow from there.
But Is It Right For You?
All that said, is investing in B2 equipment right for your shop in 2022 and beyond? Here are a few things to consider before answering that question.
- How important is flexibility with run lengths and turn times? If your shop is still producing longer run jobs, with a decent amount of time to produce each one in the schedule, then B2 might not be the investment for you right now. However, if your run lengths are shrinking right alongside your turn-around times, then digital B2 inkjet could be the solution you need to keep productivity high and costs low.
- How important is personalization? Is your shop still focusing on more traditional print jobs or are you seeing an increase in requests for more personalized or targeted content? One of digital’s strongest benefits is the ability to print a run of hundreds, or hundreds of jobs of one, with no difference to speed or productivity either way. And with the addition of digital finishing to match the press size and speed, jobs can get even more individual. But it is up to you to decide if that is something your shop can benefit from or not.
- How important is automation? One of the ways many shops are trying to reduce costs is by reducing touch-points in the life of a job. And to do that, automation has become a much bigger consideration than ever before. Digital B2 presses bring a lot more options for automated workflows to the table versus traditional offset B2 presses, so if automation is something you’re thinking about, this is a platform worth considering.
- How important are your ancillary services? Do you offer services such as data management, or high-end finishing? Are you looking to expand into new vertical markets? All of these will impact how useful a digital B2 platform will be for your shop. While offset excels in what it does, digital can be far more versatile. Shops that simply need to increase capacity for the current operations might not see a high value in adding digital to the mix, but those looking to expand in other directions might find digital B2 inkjet presses to be an invaluable tool in opening up those new spaces profitably.
Adding digital B2 inkjet presses and finishing equipment can be a fantastic investment for a shop looking to evolve and grow in new directions. Especially in the unprecedented times we live in, the added flexibility and lower costs can make all the difference.