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Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Commercial Analog and Digital Printing

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The commercial printing industry is in a transition from use of offset presses to inclusion of digital technology. Digital presses enable print-on-demand which moves the printing process closer to the customer, reducing distribution and storage costs and impacts to the environment. Digital presses have the ability to print shorter runs more economically than offset, have the ability to run variable print data, and use less paper from setup and calibration processes than offset presses. In this paper, an environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) for commercial printing of marketing collateral using a competitive sheet-fed offset press and an Indigo 7000 digital sheet-fed press is presented. Four damage categories are evaluated: human health, ecosystem quality, climate change, and resources. The life cycle includes materials and energy used to make the printer, paper, and consumables; energy consumption during printing, and end-of-life of paper, printer and consumables. The LCA of commercial digital printing shows that paper has the largest potential environmental impact, with press energy consumption and consumables coming next. The printer bill of materials is inconsequential by comparison. Additionally, an environmental break-even analysis demonstrates that a digital press has a lower environmental impact than an offset press when run length lies at the economic break-even point (estimated at 3,972 4-color double-sided lettersize pages).

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • For more than 25 years, NIP has been the leading forum for discussion of advances and new directions in non-impact and digital printing technologies. A comprehensive, industry-wide conference, this meeting includes all aspects of the hardware, materials, software, images, and applications associated with digital printing systems, including drop-on-demand ink jet, wide format ink jet, desktop and continuous ink jet, toner-based electrophotographic printers, production digital printing systems, and thermal printing systems, as well as the engineering capability, optimization, and science involved in these fields.

    Since 2005, NIP has been held in conjunction with the Digital Fabrication Conference.

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