What's The Difference Between Sheetfed and Web Printing?
The basic difference between web and sheetfed printing is that each press consumes a different format of paper. Web presses use paper rolls, or a continuous “web” of paper. Sheetfed has pre-cut sheets that are fed into the press by means of suckers and grippers. An additional difference is that sheetfed printing produces on on only one side of the paper while web presses print on both simultaneously.
The first and most obvious difference between web and sheetfed printing are the production speeds. Sheetfed presses can produce copies up to 15,000 copies per hour while web presses can produce 100,000 copies per hour with higher page counts.
Page counts also differ. While both can produce many different page counts, sheetfed presses tend to be better optimized by four pages while web presses tend to prefer 16 page counts.
Higher speeds of a web press also produce higher waste counts. Therefore it is more common for sheetfed presses to produce print runs. Many printers will contemplate making the transition to web printing once their press runs go above 5,000, though this transition line is rather fuzzy. Many sheetfed runs though are much higher since publishers prefer the higher quality.
Though web presses have a higher production rate, they cannot be outdone for quality by sheetfed presses. The difference is in the inherent design of the process whereby sheetfed presses can produce sharper images. This difference allows sheetfed presses to produce screen resolutions as high as 300 lines while web can produce usually no higher than 200.
In addition to sharper print quality, many sheetfed presses will print extra colors beyond the typical cyan, magenta, yellow color gamut. Some will add additional colors to further enhance the color gamut and hence compliment the already inherent advantage of higher resolutions.
While web printing is limited to lighter papers, sheetfed presses can handle a myriad of substrates. Web presses experience this limitation mainly due to their folding capabilities which usually cannot handle much more than 100lb stock through the folder. Sheetfed presses however can handle much thicker stocks.