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Inline Printing for Direct Mail

You might be aware of the commonly asked printing question, which is: what’s the difference between inline and off-line printing? In simple terms, these different processes describe the way in which printers approach both printing and finishing various projects. There are unique benefits to both, so how do you choose?

It all comes down to what exactly you’re looking to print. Read more to learn about the various approaches to printing and finishing, and discover why an inline approach is the best for direct mail.

The Inline Printing Difference for Direct Mail

Most printers require multiple runs on separate machines for customization, personalization and finishing. With an inline process, projects are printed, perforated, die-cut, folded and glued in one single pass.

The key components of an inline printing and finishing approach involve a direct link between the print engine and finishing machines. This direct link requires only minimal set up from a manual labor perspective, and the technology integration allows for the entire process to be both streamlined and automated. This has major cost-saving benefits when it comes to reducing the time and intervention from manual skilled workers. It also has the added benefit of reducing any human error in terms of setting up from printing to finishing.

Inline printing is best suited for variable print jobs, where different personalized data is crucial to the overall printed material. As such, an inline printing approach is the optimal choice for highly personalized direct mail.

Inline printing gives you the flexibility to customize your size, shape, printing and personalization — all without busting your budget. An inline printing solution is a cost-effective approach that allows you to maximize your return and response to your creative direct mail campaign.

What is Off-Set Printing?

In contrast to inline printing and finishing, an off-line printing approach describes a process where the finishing solutions — like die-cutting, folding and gluing — are run on machines that are entirely separate from the printing press. In off-line printing, there is no automatic communication between the different types of equipment. That means that skilled workers are responsible for manually setting up each part of the printing and finishing runs. In terms of cost, the additional time and labor of these skilled workers can make off-line printing less cost-effective. However, off-line printing does provide versatility when it comes to longer print runs of various sizes, or when runs from multiple printers need to be fed into the finishing process.

Still, when it comes to the highly personalized nature of direct mail, an inline printing solution is the best and most cost-effective choice.

What is Near-Set Printing?

Now that you know the difference between inline and off-line printing, what is near-line printing? Near-line printing is often described as the happy medium of both inline and off-line. Like the off-line printing approach, near-line uses separate machines and devices for printing and finishing. But unlike off-line, where there is no communication between these machines, near-line incorporates an element of the inline approach with some degree of communication between the different machines. This communication is often in the form of special cable technology, or intelligent markings that can be recognized by the different machines.

Like the off-line approach, one of the primary appeals of near-line printing is that it has some of the same versatility to accept print jobs from multiple machines. This comes in handy when you want to use two different types of print techniques or materials, for example. Additionally, the benefit of added communication for near-line printing and finishing is that it reduces the manual time and energy from skilled workers — which was the main drawback for off-line printing.

However, knowing these benefits, the choice for personalized direct mail is clear: the inline approach. It is the only printing and finishing process that achieves a personalized, finished product in one single pass through the production line.

Finding a Printing Partner that Specializes in Inline Printing

When choosing a printing partner for your direct mail needs, you want to look for a company that specializes in the inline printing and finishing approach. The importance of this specialization can not be overstated, as you’ll be able to reap the maximum benefits of inline with a partner that excels in this area.

McAdams Graphics has been providing companies across the country with sophisticated direct mail printing and mailing services for more than 35 years. Our inline printing and converting capabilities provide what few printers can: a high-volume, personalized piece that is finished and ready to mail all in a single pass. We are also experts at variable data insertion and provide mailing services. Contact us to learn more.


7200 South 1st Street
Oak Creek, WI 53154

(414) 768-8080

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