The Rise of Hybrid Digital and Offset Printing Environments

The term “hybrid production environment” denotes plants that can print with both conventional and digital equipment. But, today, how meaningful a designation is it?

Consider that of the companies listed in the 2018 Printing Impressions 400 ranking of the top printers in the U.S. and Canada, just 30 said that their service offerings did not include some form of digital printing (web, cut-sheet, wide- and grand-format, and hybrid offset/digital printing). Further subtracting the 24 that reported being digital-only shops (double 2017’s number) and the 15 that did not share information about their capabilities leaves 331 plants with both conventional and digital processes.

These listees clearly fit the definition of “hybrid” environments. But, semantics aside, are they simply companies equipping themselves with whatever it takes to stay competitive in the printing industry as it now operates? Put another way, does the fact that these bi-capable plants are so numerous indicate that hybridization is the industry’s new normal? This requires some perspective.

Although the adoption of digital printing is accelerating, the conventional processes — principally offset lithography — continue to hold powerful sway. At the 2018 Xeikon Café event, Marco Boer, VP of IT Strategies, noted that just 3% of all print is produced using digital technology.

Addressing the label and packaging segment, another speaker, Bob Leahey, associate director of Keypoint Intelligence, pointed out that digital printing accounted for only a tiny slice of that $167 billion market.
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