Printing has come an awfully long way over the last half-century, with 3D printing making an increasingly significant splash in the modern economy. But even if we talk solely about 2D printing technologies, we are able to do so much more than we were a decade or two ago.
For instance, UV printing allows us to print on almost anything in a carbon neutral way. Then we come to the countless digital technologies that also allow for considerable flexibility and scope. To put it simply, the industry is evolving and growing, which is incredibly exciting for anyone that happens to work within it, and indeed beyond. The possibilities seem to be endless.
Then we come to the many embellishments and finishes possible with modern printing techniques, which can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Whether it’s a case of taking this embellishment and coating to a whole new level, or simplifying that which has previously been perhaps overly complex, it’s clear that you can genuinely do quite a lot with minimal resources.
But when it comes down to size, how do you know which size is right for your specific product? Things have undoubtedly changed a lot in this regard too, with many digital presses previously using electrophotography in the 1990s and 2000s, with either liquid or dry toners. The salient point of this, however, is that these were all limited to SRA3 formats – but what exactly are the constraints here?
To put it simply, bigger is ultimately better in terms of increasing cost-effectiveness and efficiency, meaning that the bigger solutions are always likely to win out in a crowded marketplace. To understand why this is the case, however, it’s important to unpack what exactly SRA3 and B2 are, and what all these seemingly arbitrary numbers and letters mean when used together.
What is SRA3?
First of all, SRA3 stands simply for ‘supplementary raw format A’, which means that the SRA3 size is slightly larger than the standard A3 size. As a result, most commercial digital printers have tended to use SRA3, primarily due to the fact that if you wanted to print an A3 flyer, the SRA3 method will print the content in the middle of the sheet, with 3mm of extra print around the edges.
As you might expect, this additional edge, or ‘bleed’ as it's commonly known, can allow for a more efficient way in which to print something in A3. Standard A3 printing’s lack of margins mean that there is scarce room for error, where SRA3 provides exactly that in the form of a margin.
As you can see, the SRA3 provided an important solution to a previous problem, but as we’ll come onto later, newer printing finishes have revealed issues with the SRA3 processes – particularly size. That said, it is still a solid solution in many contexts, though of course volume is the important consideration when choosing between B2 and SRA3.
What size is SRA3?
The SRA3 size is 320 x 450 mm, with one SRA3 sheet size the equivalent of 1 A3 sheet, 2 A4 sheets, or 4 A5 sheets of paper.
Benefits of SRA3
Ultimately, SRA3 has allowed printers that margin for error, which ultimately has allowed for less wastage on a larger scale.
Given the constraints and issues with the printing industry in terms of this wastage, this can only be a positive thing to take into account. Sustainability is a key thing nowadays, and you get the sense it will only increase in importance over the coming years and decades.
It’s worth keeping in mind that SRA3 printing does not only allow for A3 printing, but also A5 documents. You can fit four A5 documents on one SRA3 sheet, allowing you to save money in the long run if printing in bulk. It can also save the customer money, which goes without saying is a huge bonus.
Similarly, if printing A4 documents in bulk, you can save even more, though it’s arguable that B2 provides this bulk A4 printing in a more economical way. So what exactly is B2 printing and why is it seemingly replacing something meant to replace standard A3 printing?
What is B2?
B2 size paper is 707 x 500 mm, which makes it bigger than SRA3, allowing more room for manoeuvre above all else. For that which is affordable and eye-catching in terms of promotional material, B2 paper might be the optimum choice, though of course it all depends on your needs. Also commonly referred to as a half-size press, the B2 format has plenty of benefits.
Benefits of B2
In terms of creating posters, B2 offers a lot more space in which to include anything, from similar products to additional details or information that perhaps cannot fit when using other sizes. B2 posters are large enough to catch the eye, so could be perfect for those looking to advertise in crowded areas.
Best of all, they don’t come with the price tag of a large poster, given that they are small enough to be reproduced in bulk at a reasonable cost. They are the perfect middle ground between large and small posters, offering both visibility and cost-effectiveness.
With printing, the devil is very much in the detail, which means the finish or embellishment of your printed artefact could be a decisive factor. Best of all, there are products on the market that combine all the processes involved with finishing products in one go, making things more streamlined and easier to manage, as well as saving you money on potential longer term external costs.
Prior to B2 digital presses, often sheet sizes were limited to A3+, which didn’t always offer the most in terms of scope on which to work. Now, with B2 presses, we have cost-effectiveness, efficiency, speedy turnaround times, and greater possibility of personalisation.
It could be suggested that B2 offers the next phase in digital printing and its continuous evolution. B2 digital presses allow companies to meet the constantly fluctuating market demands, enabling them to stand out from the competition in a way that not only saves pennies, but potentially generates them too. The key factor in doing this is in the method, but that method is inevitably pointless if the tools aren’t up to scratch.
Print finishing: Get the right tools for the job
Just as a bad worker blames his tools, a smart worker can give credit to his tools if they happen to be effective in helping them work intelligently. After all, working smart is the key in most industries nowadays. Regardless of whether you use B2 or SRA3 paper, the right tools can boost your processes significantly.
As mentioned above, the printing industry at large has become even more streamlined, making it considerably easier to finish and embellish to the highest quality standard at a reasonable price. But the automation in the industry with regard to finishing does not end there. Flexibility can also be added to the process through some of the other cutter creaser systems available.
The advantages of such a tool are numerous – for instance, you can expect production costs to drop significantly. Productivity can also increase with a more efficient workflow thanks to the automation involved. You’ve also got an array of applications at your disposal, removing the need for manual processes like the guillotine. What may have previously been an hour’s work is reduced massively, leaving you time elsewhere, wherever you may need it.
As well as finishing the job, it can sometimes be worth going back to the cutting table, which needn’t be as painful a process as it once may have been in years gone by. Also automated, the digital cutting table can streamline the process with intricate short-run precision technology. Best of all, you can create anything from greeting cards to luxury packaging without the need for physical dies.
So, which is better?
Of course the main distinctions between both SRA3 and B2 are the paper sizes, but SRA3 paper size shouldn’t be dismissed if it’s suitable for your company’s needs. The distinction is about scalability – if your company is able to make use of something larger and more sizable, then B2 could well be your best option.
In general, it would be fair to say that B2 offers something a lot more cost-effective than something that is already quite cost-effective in SRA3, but these trends suggest something hugely positive in terms of sustainability and cost-effectiveness as a whole. With the right tools at your disposal, both can be improved significantly, allowing you to be in control of your output.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the industry might yet continue its evolution, allowing for greater sustainability and longevity, and it’s the newfound technologies and constant innovations that make this so.
At Duplo International, we’re always happy to answer any questions about how we make the printing process a whole lot easier, and how you can do a lot more with less. To find out more, feel free to contact us with any enquiries.