Types of Variable Data Printing

Types of Variable Data Printing

You’ve probably come across variable data printing jobs, otherwise known as VDP, before. In fact, the marketing industry uses variable data printing every day to generate customized postcards, coupons, or QR codes to personalize their advertising campaigns. But while it's most often associated with marketing, VDP has applications far beyond it.


Over the past several years, variable dating printing has become an essential part of industries like retail, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, electronics, and manufacturing and logistics. When it comes to manufacturing and logistics, for example, many manufacturers require labels with specific information, such as serial numbers, vehicle identification numbers (VINs), or asset numbers. These labels are critical to operations and variable data printing can provide this information more quickly than traditional offset printing. 


This article will explore the different types of variable data printing, the types of variables that can be customized, and examples. But first, let's explore what variable data printing is and how it works.

What is a Variable Print Job?

A variable print job is any print job that makes use of variable data printing to create a customized printed piece. This can include things like postcards, brochures, letters, envelopes, labels, decals, and more.


But exactly what is variable data printing? Variable data printing—sometimes referred to as variable information printing (VIP) or Variable imaging (VI)—is a form of on-demand, digital printing that allows you to change certain components of a job from piece to piece. This allows you to create large quantities of customized printed pieces without slowing down or stopping the printer to edit each individual component.

What are the uses for Variable Printing?

The uses of variable data printing are endless. But at the end of the day, variable data printing is used to create mass, customized print jobs without slowing down the printing process. This not only ensures that the job can be more quickly completed, but it can also cut down on costs associated with stopping or slowing down the printers. And that’s a win-win for companies that need variable print data jobs. Let’s explore an example to illustrate this point.


If you’re in metal manufacturing, you more than likely use serial number labels for each of your pieces of inventory. But how do you get  these labels? You could take care of it inhouse or with a traditional printing process, but this would require printing one label per batch… a slow and costly process. Or, you could use VDP. With VDP, each serial number can be printed consecutively in one batch, without slowing down the printer. The printer uses specialized software to pull data from its source—typically an Excel Macro file—between each printed label to maintain a steady print flow. This process takes about the same amount of time as it would if you were printing a batch of labels with all the same information across each label

What Type of Printing Process Can Print Variable Data?

Variable data printing can only be performed via digital printing. Other traditional forms of printing like offset litho and screen printing don’t have the capability to run VDP. This is because these forms of printing make use of metal plates or mesh pieces to produce copies of the exact same print. While these forms of printing are excellent for mass production, they simply don’t allow the flexibility and customization needed for variable data printing.


One of the main benefits of digital printing, on the other hand, is its ability to produce personalized, customized jobs. Digital printing for VDP makes use of databases, digital printing technology, and specialized VDP software to allow jobs to be sent directly to the printer—without the need for creating printing plates. Similar to how home printers work, digital printers receive jobs as a PDF or other type of file directly from a computer and then prints the job directly on paper, canvas, cardstock, or any other form of printable media. 


And, while early digital print technology lacked the kind of superior quality offered by traditional offset printing, advancements in digital printing technology have made it so the quality is just as good—if not better.

What are the Variable Types in VDP?

The options for variables in VDP jobs are as limitless as you can imagine. Today, most content can be changed out and customized in a printed piece thanks to specialized VDP software that can make quick work of your variables. With that said, here are some of the most common variable data types we see in VDP:


Text: Variable data text includes any written letters or words. This might include names, addresses, blocks of content with instructions or product descriptions, and more.

Numbers: Similar to variable data text, this might include product or part numbers, VINs, asset numbers, zip codes, pricing, dates, and more.


Graphics and Images: Visual elements can also be included in VDP. This includes things like logos, charts, graphs, artwork, QR codes, barcodes, and more.

Colors: Variable data printing doesn’t have to be done in black and white. The full CMYK scale is available for VDP—helping to make variable print jobs better stand out.

Coming up with all the variable data you need for a job might sound overwhelming at first, and that’s ok. It’s a complex process! That’s why working with the right variable data print company is so important. If you’re unsure about how to get started with creating your variable data types or your VDP jobs, seek out a printing company who can work with you one-on-one on the process. Variable data printing companies like DuraMark that focus on partnerships will be there to walk you through each step of the process from start to finish.

What are the Types of Variable Data Printing?

If you’re looking to better understand VDP, you might be seeking variable data printing examples. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the common types of variable data printing jobs and how they can improve your business practices. 

Mass Market Mailers
This is the only marketing example we’re going to include, but we’re keeping it in because of how synonymous mass market mailers have become with VDP. Consider all the advertisements you get in the mail. These days, most aren’t addressed to “current resident” like they once were. Now, they include your name, your address, and maybe even a customized QR code or web address to help the company track who is scanning the code or visiting their site. Companies can use consumer information (like names and addresses) to create personalized mailers. All they do is upload their art files and their variable information—typically in an Excel Macro file—to a vendor who creates the personalized mailers.


Linear Barcodes
Moving into the manufacturing and logistics space, linear barcodes are often used to track inventory and control the overall manufacturing process. But, most companies need dozens all the way to hundreds of different linear barcodes to track and maintain information for each component in their inventory. That’s where VDP comes in. Rather than spending time printing and coding the information for each individual barcode, variable data printing allows you to upload the information to a variable data printing company who can take the information and quickly and efficiently print one or more copies of each of the linear barcodes you need.


2D Barcodes & QR Codes
As technology continues to make more information available to us, it’s helped make barcodes even more useful. 2D barcodes are similar to linear barcodes, except they allow for more data to be stored. 2D barcodes, or QR codes as they’re more commonly called, store data across both the horizontal and vertical dimensions—hence the name 2D. Like linear barcodes, 2D barcodes are often used in manufacturing because they store a lot of data. As an added bonus, 2D barcodes can be printed very small and still be scannable—making them an excellent fit for small spaces or products. The process for printing these items is the same as linear barcodes: companies upload the information for each barcode to an Excel Macro and the shipping company takes care of the rest.


Asset Numbers
Asset numbers are a crucial piece of many manufacturing company’s day-to-day operations. They’re a way to tag and identify each and every one of a company’s assets, from machines and equipment to tools and parts. Asset tags also allow employees to scan the barcode and easily access information about the asset, like its location, maintenance history, and more. Additionally, some industries have regulations that require asset labels be on certain types of assets, making them essential to maintaining regulatory compliance. And that’s why it’s important to work with a VDP printing company who understands the regulatory codes you must meet and can ship you your asset labels quickly when you need them.


Serial Numbers
Serial numbers are another common example of variable data printing. For manufacturing companies that assign serial numbers to their products, printing each individual number can be a time-consuming process… especially if you have a large quantity of inventory on hand. Variable data printing can help this process. Simply provide the serial number and other data in an Excel Macro to a printing company and they can quickly provide your labels. 


For those in automotive manufacturing, VINs are an integral part of the industry. You can’t finalize a product without a VIN, which means that having the right label at the right time is essential to being able to fulfill your contract on time. Variable data printing can automate this process, which means all you need to worry about is getting the information to your printing company. They’ll take care of the rest. For labels like VINs, it’s important to work with a company who you can build a relationship with. This way, they can work with your production schedule to ensure just in time delivery for your VIN labels.

Duramark: A Fast, Affordable, And High Quality Approach

Many manufacturing companies require labels with detailed, variable information like serial numbers, VINs, barcodes, and asset numbers. These labels are essential to your operation and require variable or serialized printing. As the leading label supplier in North America, DuraMark Technologies is committed to providing our customers with the perfect label for each and every situation.

At DuraMark, we pride ourselves on being customer-focused and collaborative. That’s why we partner with our customers to understand their needs and production schedules in order to provide the best experience possible. We promise three things with our variable data printed labels: clarity, durability, and lasting adhesion so you can be sure that the products you buy today will last. Additionally, our process is underscored by our speed—with about a four-day turnaround time for most jobs—so you can get your labels when you need them. 

We’re more than a VDP printer, though. At DuraMark, we provide labels, product-specific kitting, and support services in addition to our variable data services. Our number one goal is to come up with the right label solution for your company. If you’re ready to learn more about any of our printing processes, contact us today.