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Printing Terminology: Sheet Fed Press vs Web Press

Sheet-Fed Printing Press vs Roll-Fed Printing Press

Sheet Fed vs Web

A Sheet Fed Press and a Web Press are two distinctly different types of printing presses. Which of these two press types is the optimal production method for a given print project largely depends on the specifications and scale of the project.

Sheet fed presses and web presses both have a unique set of characteristics and advantages. In this article, we will explore the key distinctions between the two.

The feeding mechanism of a Sheet Fed offset printing press
A Sheet-Fed printing press is fed from a stack of individual paper sheets

What is a Sheet Fed Press?

As its name implies, a Sheet Fed printing press processes individual sheets of paper. A mechanized feeder picks single sheets from a stack of paper and continually feeds them into the press, one after another. The sheets are printed upon as they travel through the press and then ejected into a stack at the other end.

The majority of printing presses are sheet fed. This includes offset and digital presses. Also, sheet-fed presses are available in many different sizes to accommodate a wide variety of print projects and sheet dimensions.

A major benefit offered by a sheet-fed press is that it can print on a variety of paper types and thicknesses, including cardstocks. This makes sheet-fed presses a good fit for a broad range of print projects, including books and booklets, brochures, flyers, postcards, business cards, presentation folders, maps, letterhead and more.

Pallets of large paper sheets in a printing company's storeroom
Various stacks of paper used for a Sheet-Fed press

Sheet fed presses are best suited for projects within the low to medium volume range. High production volumes are generally more economical to produce on a web press.

What is a Web Press?

Whereas a sheet-fed press prints on individual sheets, a Web Press prints on a continuous roll of paper. Also known as a roll-fed or reel-fed press, a web press is fed from a large roll of paper that unwinds as it weaves through the press. The paper is held taught by a series of rollers as it is pulled through the press and printed upon. When the production run is complete, the paper roll is cut into the individual printed sheets needed for the project.

The feeding mechanism of a Roll Fed offset printing press
A Web Press is fed from a large roll of paper

Most web presses are offset presses, though there are some web-fed digital presses as well. Web presses run at higher speeds than sheet-fed presses, making them very efficient. In fact, rapid production is a major benefit of web printing.

<em>Rolls of paper used for a Web press</em>Printed paper traveling through the rollers of a Web press
A series of rollers moves the paper through a Web Press

Though many sheet-fed offset presses can make about 15,000 impressions per hour, most offset web presses can double or triple that hourly production rate. Also, web presses can print on both sides of the paper during a single pass through the press. However, not all sheet fed presses have this capability.

In addition, because the paper is fed from a continuous roll rather than as individual sheets, web presses can print on thinner paper stocks than sheet-fed presses. However, unlike sheet-fed presses, web presses cannot effectively process thicker cardstocks. Plus, not all paper types are made in large rolls. Hence, some textured and specialty stocks will have to be printed on a sheet-fed press because they are not available in rolls for web printing.

Large rolls of paper in a printing company's storeroom
Various rolls of paper used for a Web Press

As mentioned above, sheet-fed printing is a very efficient method for producing small and medium press runs. However, web printing is generally reserved for large scale printing. For example, mass-produced periodicals such as newspapers, magazines, and catalogs are frequently produced on a web press. Other projects, like books, manuals, calendars, and direct mail pieces can also be printed on a web press but only if the volume is high enough to make it cost effective.

Looking for Affordable Printing Services?

Color Vision has been a full-service provider of affordable printing services since 1984. We offer offset and digital printing as well as a wide variety of finishing and bindery options.

So whether you are looking for book printing, full-color printing, laminated printing or any other type of printing, just give us a call at 800-543-6299 to discuss your upcoming project.

You can also use our Quote Request form to share your project's specifications with us so we can send you a quote via email.

We hope to hear from you soon and look forward to assisting with your custom printing needs!

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