The printing industry has been changing dramatically for over 20 years. While the majority of print volume is generated by offset lithography, many print operations are bringing in digital technologies as a complement or even replacement for some offset market segments. Amongst the advantages of these new digital technologies are the ability to produce variable data printing and economically viable short-run jobs. At the same time, societal, consumer, and regulatory pressures are driving all areas of industry to examine closely the effects of their operations on the environment. With the advancement and proliferation of digital technologies, the printing industry is looking forward to digital printing as a panacea for some significant technical and environmental problems that are currently associated with traditional printing methods. The two digital technologies showing the most growth potential are inkjet and electrophotography (Romano, 2003). Both technologies are developing the capability to approach offset lithography in image quality. High-end electrophotographic production presses are able to produce output at a rate which makes accessible some short-run offset market segments and there is significant development activity in this area from press manufacturers, software developers and consumables providers (The Print Extension, Inc., 2004) Volumes from conventional printing technologies will probably grow more slowly than those from digital technologies. Electrophotography is predicted to grow at about 2.8% and inkjet at about 8.3% for the period 2003-2008, compared with an increase in only 0.7% over this period for offset lithography (Business Development Advisory, Inc., 2003). However, issues of environment and workplace health and safety do not disappear merely because a facility is utilizing electrophotographic digital technologies rather than traditional printing processes. Moreover, digital technology has its own demerits that restrict its use for certain circumstances. It is essential for printers to know and understand how the environmental, health, and safety aspects of their digital printing operations compare to traditional printing technologies. In this paper we compare some environmental, health, and safety issues associated with lithographic and digital printing processes. Two commonly used press types, sheetfed lithographic and digital electrophotographic, have been studied to quantify material consumption, waste generation, and certain health and safety aspects at each stage of document production. Since the economic advantages of each technology relate closely to print run-length, the experiments were constructed around a long- and short-run framework. The objectives of this study were: To identify and analyze environmental, health, and safety (EHS) issues associated with lithographic and digital printing processes. To provide technical information, based on EHS observations and analysis, which printing companies can use when making technological choices. To raise awareness within the printing industry about material usage and waste generation resulting from print operations, thus creating a basis for integrating EHS into printing business management. To deliver a methodology by which a printing operation can perform a comparative environmental assessment of two different printing technologies. This research report provides guidelines from which a print technology comparison process can be derived for application to specific presses within a print production operation. Each print technology involves different technical considerations for the evaluation of materials and energy consumption and the generation of waste. Each press model based on similar technology and even the same model of press operated in two different production environments will show a different utilization of resources based on modifications, operation parameters, and the type of consumables used. The data generated in this study is of less significance than the methodologies used to generate, normalize and compare the data.

Publication Date


Document Type

Full-Length Book


Sponsor: RIT, Adobe, Alfred P Sloan Foundation, Creo, US Government Printing Office, Heidelberg, HP, IBM, Kodak, Meadwestvaco, NPES, RR Donnelley, Standard Register, Vertis, VIGC, Weyerhaeuser, Xerox. Document #PICRM-2005-01 Research Area: Processes, Productivity and Profitability

Department, Program, or Center

Printing Industry Center (CIAS)


RIT – Main Campus