As with conventional printing processes, the cost of producing a digital print application depends upon many factors. All of the factors are related to either time or materials. One application may require more time in prepress than with any other step while another application may require a lengthy output time due to a very large quantity or perhaps off-line finishing processes may be time consuming. A large expense may be incurred with an upgrade in the substrate that is used for the application.
The cost of producing digitally printed applications has been steadily declining as the technology improves and the market share increases. The average cost for color digital printing has declined to about 5 cents per sheet for press runs of 500 or more, while black and white costs are now about 0.5 cents per sheet for quantities over 500.
Most digital print vendors use a grid system for their pricing, which recognizes that there are certain flat charges common to all jobs and the price per sheet is usually greater on small runs than on large print runs. There are major industry sources that publish standardized costs which can be used as a gauge for all printers. Even though there are some differences in pricing between printer providers or by regions, the cost standards can be very helpful. Described below is a breakdown of some of the costs encountered with digital printing.
The smallest quantity jobs do not require any prepress work if they are to be produced on a copier. Eliminating prepress from the workflow removes a substantial cost that is common to applications that are built from scratch. It is possible that the original document may need some touching up before it is suitable for producing copies, but the cost for this would be minimal.
Most other applications are designed on a computer and set in a page layout program. Various software programs are used to create original illustrations, digital cameras are used to record original images, or a scanner is used to convert photographs and artwork into digital information, which can be stored on the computer. Images that are digitally photographed or scanned may require color correction and manipulation, which adds further cost. If proofing is required, the file can be sent through a digital proofer or to the digital press where a copy can be output on the actual substrate selected for the job. The more time required for prepress work, the greater the final cost of the job.
Many types of digital output equipment feature on-line finishing capabilities such as sorting, stapling, hole punching, and folding. The printing and finishing of products such manuals, booklets, and brochures in one operation can significantly reduce the cost of the job compared to the same job that must have the finishing functions completed off-line.
Some applications printed digitally may require special folds, die-cuts, or bindings that cannot be accomplished on-line. The need to use off-line equipment for finishing operations can add a significant cost to the job. In order to reduce the cost, your printer may be able to suggest alternatives for some of your finishing requests. Even a slight change in the design of the application may help decrease the expense of finishing the job.