One way to misinterpret the cost breakeven point between offset printing and digital printing is to compare a piece of aging offset equipment with a current digital press. In this scenario, digital retains the cost-per-piece advantage over offset in runs up to thousands of copies—the older offset press just isn’t economical in smaller quantities.
The picture changes dramatically with new press technology, particularly with Anicolor, the digitally integrated, zoneless short inking system for the Speedmaster XL 75. Anicolor makes ready in four minutes and comes up to color in fewer than 30 waste sheets. That means the press can hold its own with digital devices in volumes that once were off-limits to offset but now can be run profitably using the process that most commercial shops know best.
A tool created by Printing Industries of America (PIA), the PrintAS Cost Calculator*, measures the economy Anicolor can achieve in short runs. Using operating cost data from the Speedmaster XL 75 Anicolor and a digital press in a comparable 23″ x 29″ format, the spreadsheet shows breakeven between the two platforms occurring at fewer than 300 sheets. Below this cutoff, there is a higher chance for a smaller unit cost with digital.
This makes Anicolor extremely attractive for short runs. As an offset press, it also yields economies of scale in high volumes. The bottom line: Anicolor printing is competitive with—and often superior to—digital printing in all of the run lengths that commercial shops most commonly handle. Heidelberg argues that what’s left for the digital niche is the personalized or ultra-short-run market—the perfect fit for the Versafire CV and Versafire CP.