Variable data printing: an offshoot of digital printing, variable data printing offers the look and feel of conventional offset, out with the added convenience of digital capabilities.

Author:Diamond, Catherine

Variable data, variable image. variable information--whatever you choose to call it--is a vital part of today's printing industry. An offshoot of digital printing, it offers the look and feel of conventional offset, but with the added convenience and control offered by digital capabilities. Variable data printing allows converters to go beyond the mass production of a single label to offer their customers the option of customization on a large scale.

According to Jill Smith, marketing specialist at Mark Andy--a press manufacturer based in Chesterfield, MO, USA--market drivers for variable data printing include personalization, brand security and protection, and customization. "The ability to print variable data continues to be an increasing need for converters," she says. "Having variable data capability may allow the converter to reduce inventories, being able to print the base graphics. then later add the variable portion of the data. This is in contrast to running multiple SKUs with all the variable data combinations."


Variable data printing capabilities opens converters up to several new markets, including coupons, lottery tickets and brand protection. According to Danny Martens, director of segment marketing and business development document printing at Xeikon--which develops, markets and sells digital color printing systems and related consumables--variable data printing is prevalent in nearly every industry and in many vertical markets, including healthcare, financial services, automotive and retail, among others.

"On the document printing side," he says, "0f course direct mail is one of the markets where it's a dominant Force. Our customers can vary direct mail messages in nearly any way you can think of, from different color pieces appealing to a particular gender, to different product offers and discounts tailored to a person's age and purchase history."

The level of customization required by a customer can vary widely. For example, direct mail pieces may only require a name change on each piece. Other products may require large sections of text or images to change. Imagine women's shampoo, for instance. One product line may offer several different versions--color protection, anti-frizz, volumizing, moisturizing, and so on--each with its own text and color scheme.


Roland DCA Corp. is the US-based marketing, distribution and sales arm of Roland DG Corp., headquartered in Hamamatsu. Japan. The company provides inkjet printers For the durable graphics market. Steven Tu, color workflow specialist at Roland DGA Corp., says that, traditionally, variable data printing was used to add names, numbers, logos and other graphic elements to things like real estate signs, athletic jerseys, gift items, and the like. "Now, in addition to these applications," he says, "We are seeing the technology embraced for all types of product labeling. With variable data printing capabilities, it is easy and cost-effective to brand products with specific labels that reflect their local market or retail outlet. The technology is finding a broad base of applications."


One of the major appeals of variable data printing is the control it offers converters. With some careful planning and the utilization of digital technology, converters are able to cut down on waste and, sometimes, cost. Atlantic Zeiser is a West Caldwell, NJ, USA-based provider of digital print products for industrial applications, including high-quality variable digital data. Dan Rhoades, sales manager at Atlantic Zeiser, says variable data printing benefits include waste and cost savings, zero-error production, high print quality and variability for frequently changing print data, all which meet the most stringent safety concerns. "With pharmaceutical and medicine labels in particular, the need for quality and high efficiency is paramount. It ensures maximum data security and can even be used for clinical studies," he...

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