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German Sacristan

The Future of B2 Offset Printing

Navigating the digital shift through cross over points

Jan 10, 2024 7:00:00 PM


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In the ever-evolving print production landscape, digital printing continues to expand—driven by the ongoing transition from offset to digital technologies. This shift is propelled by various factors, including the escalating costs associated with offset printing (such as plates and paper waste), challenges in labor operator availability, as well as the growing demand for short runs and personalized print products.


Despite these challenges, it is evident that offset printing is not on the verge of obsolescence. Offset printing remains strong and relevant due to its lower ink costs and higher printing speeds compared to digital printing alternatives. However, the trend is accelerating, which also happened for B3 offset as it saw most of its volumes shift to digital printing. The question arises: Is B2 offset printing next in line for a digital printing takeover?


Two primary considerations dictate the choice to output in offset vs. digital printing: cost and capacity/availability. Quality, once a decisive factor, is now less prominent in this decision-making process. In a bid to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of B2 offset against digital printing, we employed our new Keypoint Intelligence Cross Over Point (COP) tool, which swiftly compares two printers or presses using market data averages.


Our analysis revealed that B2 digital printing is economically favorable for shorter print runs, with the cross over point occurring only with B1 offset (newer) at 7,500+ A4 color impressions (as shown on the chart below). B2 offset does not feature in this cross over point calculation. In essence, both B2 digital and newer B1 offset present lower costs from minimal to infinite print quantities. An interesting observation is that some lower print volume older amortized B1 offset presses (Offset B1 Older)—albeit with longer make-readies and increased paper waste—might also shift to B2 digital or B3 inkjet based on cross over points.



While cross over points vary among print service providers and exceptions exist, our analysis—grounded in market-average production costs, press speeds, production shifts, utilization rates, and average monthly print volumes (AMPVs)—underscores a compelling opportunity for B2 digital (including B3 inkjet) to acquire more B2 offset volumes due to their productivity and cost efficiencies.


In response to market dynamics, smaller (and even some mid-size) offset shops are expressing disinterest in engaging in price battles which drive lower profitability against larger B1 offset printing providers. Instead, many are redirecting their focus towards larger and more profitable opportunities in the larger production digital printing arena that encompasses B2, B3 inkjet, and roll-fed technologies.


Our projections indicate a robust growth trajectory for B2 digital and B3 inkjet in the years ahead, a trend corroborated by our COP tool. Expected to launch in the US in Q1 this year, this tool will be available for companies seeking quick and customized comparisons of cost cross over points between two presses. Operating as a cloud-based web tool, it promises to be an invaluable asset for companies having the need to better understand the cost differences between offset and digital printing.


Browse through our Industry Reports Page (latest reports only). Log in to the InfoCenter to view additional research on cross over points through our On Demand Printing & Publishing Advisory Service. If you’re not a subscriber, contact us for more info by clicking here.