The B2 Myth

Content provided by Kodak

Printing is a manufacturing business. The cost of production is always important, but so are print quality and turnaround times. At first glance, small-format B2 digital presses seem to be an efficient alternative to half-size sheetfed offset presses, helping printers control costs. A closer examination of application requirements and workflow reveals a more complex picture.

Changing the Productivity Paradigm

For example, B2 presses are widely used in book manufacturing. As simply a smaller version of traditional sheetfed presses, B2 presses may seem to be a more efficient way to produce books on demand or in shorter runs. But by printing on longer sheets (up to 48 inches) that are closer to finished size, B3+ digital presses can actually change the book manufacturing paradigm: imagine the productivity and cost benefits of book blocks that come off the press ready to finish. B3+-size presses enable this streamlined workflow, eliminating several operations associated with signatures and allowing final book finishing to begin as soon as the first collated book blocks come off the press.

Books are just one example of applications that could be more efficiently produced on a B3+ format digital press. Most poster formats exceed B2 sheet size capabilities, and printing large-format brochures (6- and 8-pages) on a B2 press results in excessive trim waste.

Hidden Costs in B2 Production

Reducing the amount of handling required from start to finish is important in controlling production costs; more handling translates to higher costs for waste and potential spoilage. It also leads to higher labor costs, which are inherently necessary with B2 sheets when compared with smaller-format sheets.

When it comes to paper, the B2 format is an awkward size that drives higher paper costs - often 10% or more, as 20x28 inches is not the most efficient fit for the most popular parent-sized sheets. Except for a select few applications, B2 sheets typically generate more trim waste than A4-size sheets that are closer to finished size, and increasingly popular paperboards and specialty substrates are often unavailable in B2 size.

Another factor to consider is risk: if a B2 digital press goes down, production stops. Smaller-format B3+ presses are less expensive to purchase and multiple presses can be run by a single operator, allowing you to scale your capacity investment in manageable chunks and giving you the redundancy needed to maximize uptime.

Is the risk worth the reward?

B2 presses are very good for a small subset of niche applications, but for the majority of general commercial work, the B2 format represents a lot of risk for very little gain. A B3+ format press with long-sheet capability and robust paper handling is a wiser choice, offering a streamlined workflow, the potential for real bottom-line improvement, and the capability to grow the top line with new applications. Click here to learn more.