Print Speed vs. Production Speed

Print Speed

Fact: Print speed or “headline speed” refers to the fastest speed of the press. This speed is only achieved at a specific print mode which may or may not deliver the desired print quality. For example, a simple image for a point-of-purchase graphic that will be viewed from a considerable distance will likely be run at a much higher speed than a complex image that will be viewed at a much closer range.

Demonstration Proof Point: Print an image file at each print mode. Use a stop watch to measure the actual total time from the moment the printer is started until the print is completed and can be removed from the printer. Calculate the print speed of each mode using the following equation:

(Total Area Printed in Square Feet/Print Time in Seconds) x 3600 = Actual Print Speed in Square Feet per Hour

For example, assume a print mode takes 360 seconds (6 minutes) to print a 4’x8′ board. The actual print speed for the mode is as follows:

(32 square feet/360) x 3600 = 320 square feet per hour


Production Speed

Fact: Production speed refers to the “real” print speed that is achieved in actual print production. It is the measure of the print mode of the equipment that will deliver the necessary quality that is commercially acceptable for that application. Obviously, this number will vary depending upon the quality requirements for a specific applications.

Demonstration Proof Point: Create a test image that incorporates all of the critical quality requirements normally found in most commercial printing applications. The specific print qualities to evaluate in each print mode on the equipment are:

  • Text sharpness (no fuzziness) with small fonts of 8 point or below
  • Smoothness of print surface in areas of heavy ink lay-down or full color
  • Coarseness of images in facial tones and areas of low ink lay-down or light colors
  • Lines or voids in the print
  • Color transition especially in areas of light color

By evaluating each area of the test file, and the quality of the printing across the test file, you will have a good basis upon which to determine which print modes you will typically use on the equipment you’re evaluating. NOTE: It is highly recommended that you print these files on at least three or four of the materials you expect to produce as the print quality and corresponding print modes (and resulting speed) may vary according to the material printed.