Using Digital Print to Create Stellar Clinical Trial Materials: A Behind-the-Scenes Look

by Dave Woodard

Imperial’s digital presses support the front lines of clinical research across the globe. All the clinical trial print materials we produce for you—for example, ISF and pharmacy binders, patient recruitment materials, investigator meeting materials, and dosing diaries—are produced in the U.S. and the U.K. under the precise and watchful eyes of our skilled printing teams.

Digital presses have been around and evolving since the 1980s, and that’s what we use to print almost all study materials. However, the traditional method of printing, called offset, has been around since the middle of the 19th century, and it is still very much in use worldwide.

Offset vs. digital printing

Offset printing creates the text or image by transferring ink from a steel cylinder to a rubber blanket and then to the paper. It’s a complex process that requires printing plates, ink(s), and water to make the printed image, and some of the materials needed for offset are still suffering supply-chain shortages.

Advantages of offset include more paper options and cost-effectiveness when substantial quantities of the same thing are printed.

Digital equipment uses a toner-based system to print a high-quality image on paper. Digital eliminates the need for a printing plate because it prints directly from the digital file to paper. Because of this direct process, short runs are more cost-effective—we don’t have to create a new printing plate each time. This also allows the use of variable printing to make different versions of a document by adding, for example, different names or contact information to the clinical trial print materials.

Digital is eco-friendly

Using digital equipment does more than remove the complex printing plate step and save time and money. It also creates less waste and eliminates the need for additional chemicals.

The Xerox dry ink toners we use are safe and do not generate hazardous waste. And digital presses require less power than offset presses, which reduces our carbon footprint.

And since digital makes short runs possible, printing as little as one single customized sheet, avoids the excessive use of paper and ink that was once a print industry necessity. We print just what clinical trial print materials our clients need when they need them. No unneeded extras to store and be disposed of when they eventually reach obsolescence.

All of this supports Imperial’s environmentally friendly culture, which includes the use of responsibly-sourced paper and a committed recycling program. I invite you to learn more about it.

Summing up

In a nutshell, the benefits of digital printing include:

  • High quality
  • Low quantities are cost-effective
  • Quicker timelines
  • High customization allows different versions of a piece and variable data (customized names, phone number information, etc.)
  • Flexibility – last-minute changes to digital files are less problematic and not show-stopping compared to traditional offset printing
  • Eco-friendly

Imperial Advantage

Digital keeps us versatile and limber, and our clients benefit. Karlton Gray, Imperial’s U.S. plant manager, said, “An accurate, collated, and finished product allows us to be more efficient with the individualized products we offer.”

Dean Tuckey, Imperial’s production manager in the U.K., added: “Digital print has become popular ultimately because of its quick turnaround. In our fast-paced industry, clients want their orders yesterday. Digital is a perfect fit for Imperial.”

Imperial’s complete print, bindery, and finishing departments in the U.S. and U.K. bring your clinical trial print materials to life, and our logistics teams get them to your global sites.

We are eco-friendly, and the paper we use comes from sustainable resources.

Contact us to learn how Imperial can support your trial with our best-in-class clinical study support, from all-inclusive startup to closeout services, to specific la carte needs.

And for a quick look at the entire process we use to print and deliver your study and site materials, check out our print process fact sheet.

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