Most of us can probably recall the Castrol ad campaign ‘Oils Ain’t Oils’ with Sol and his gangster friends who introduced to motorists ‘man made’ synthetic oils which had better chemical stability with much less impurity.
In the digital print world, there’s also an expression that’s similar. ‘There’s digital print and then there’s digital print’.
Put simply, there are digital print machines that use dry toner and those that use liquid ink toner. Both deliver affordable ways to print short run and variable data quickly and effectively and both are regarded as ecofriendly.
Let’s examine the differences.
Digital print machines that use dry toner powder fuse an image on to the surface of paper using heat. This is due to the toner being non-toxic and having a high efficiency transfer rate. Dry toner pigments are supplied in cartridges and once used are recycled. Dry toner is a fast, cost-effective option for short run digital print.
Liquid ink toner
Machines that use liquid ink toner contain charged pigmented particles in a liquid carrier supplied as a concentrated paste that is loaded into the press in sealed tubular cartridges. Inside the press it is fed into ink supply tanks and diluted with oil and a small amount of water to form a fluid mixture of carrier liquid and colourant particles ready for printing.
So, what should customers choose when quoting or ordering digital print?
Liquid ink has quite a few tricks up its sleeve that dry toner-based machines cannot achieve, particularly on the HP Indigo. But essentially, it’s the fact that it represents the best comparison to offset print quality that makes it the first choice for many, especially creatives. Increasingly, customers don’t stipulate whether a project should be printing digital or offset.
Those liquid ink qualities include the reproduction of accurate and consistent colour. Being able to produce consistent colour matches, no matter when or what its printed on, is a major factor. The integrated spectrophotometer offers automatic ICC profiling giving a unique colour profile for each paper stock it prints on, coupled with a wide and varied range of HP Indigo specified paper stocks available. The press also offers a host of ‘special’ effects, ink colours and tactile print.
Dry toner has come a long way and certainly produces bright colour. Dry toner can be problematic when running previously printed work through a heat-initiated machine a second time on things like stationery, and printing on uncoated stocks can have a mottled effect on flat colour.
If you want good acceptable digital print, then dry toner is the answer. If you want truly great digital print, colour consistency with extras, then liquid ink is the way to go.
There is of course a modest price difference between the two, however, it simply depends on your needs.
Then and only then can a fair price comparison be made. Ultimately, it’s customers who have the biggest say on which method they choose, and that choice usually made by economics, or the desire for the best possible result.