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Variable Data Printing: What Can it Do for Your Business

Variable data printing (VDP) is a revolutionary technology that has transformed the printing industry by allowing for personalised and customised content in printed products. This technology is demonstrated in Roland DG’s VersaWorks 6 RIP platform and is used in multiple ways to quickly and easily print unique data on multiple items for medium to long print runs. For example, by simply linking a spreadsheet full of names, users can print even hundreds of unique name tags in a matter of a few clicks.

This innovative approach to printing goes beyond traditional static printing methods, letting users customise elements such as text, images, and graphics on an item-by-item basis.

In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of variable data printing, explore its common applications, and highlight the myriad benefits it offers to businesses and their customers.

Understanding Variable Data Printing

At its core, variable data printing is a digital printing technique that enables the customisation of each printed piece with unique information. Unlike traditional printing, where every piece in a print run is identical, VDP allows for the incorporation of individualised content within a single print job. This is done by connecting a database or set of data to the printing process. Each entry in the data determines what gets printed on each piece.

How Variable Data Printing Works

The process of variable data printing involves the integration of digital printing software (for example, a raster image processor) with print data, like text or images, using a simple spreadsheet as a database. Here's a simplified breakdown of the key steps:

Template for a case showing two printing areas
Template for a case showing two printing areas
Design Template: A design template is created, outlining the overall layout and design of the printed item. Areas designated for variable content are identified within the template through the creation of a specific spot colour. For integration with VersaWorks, these colours should begin with “VDP_”.
Simplified spreadsheet containing text data
Simplified spreadsheet containing text data
Data Integration: A spreadsheet is used as a database containing links to images, text, and personalised content. This document is organised in a series of columns with header titles matching the spot colours used in your design template.
How data from a spreadsheet is mapped to a printing template
How data from a spreadsheet is mapped to a printing template
Variable Content Mapping: The variable data is mapped to the corresponding areas in the design template. This mapping ensures that the right information is placed in the designated spaces for each printed item. VersaWorks makes this quick and easy, with access to a wide range of fonts and design or styling options.
Two completed cases with unique and similar print data
Two completed cases with unique and similar print data
Printing: The printing process begins, with the digital printer producing each piece according to the mapped variable data. As a result, each printed item is unique, tailored to the specific information in the dataset.

Common Applications of Variable Data Printing

  1. Personalised Products: When producing personalised products, like phone cases or pens, it can be easy initially to fulfil customer orders without resorting to variable data printing. As demand gets higher, and set-up time impacts overall profits more acutely, using variable data functionality can be greatly beneficial, allowing producers to keep pace even when printing in higher volumes.
  2. Personalised Packaging: In the realm of product packaging, VDP allows for the creation of customised packaging for individual products. This is particularly beneficial for companies with a diverse product range, as it enables them to tailor packaging designs, product information, and promotional messages based on specific customer segments or regions. Since the use of templates makes the process simpler for people with limited expertise, this technique can also be used to produce custom products or even personalised packaging in a retail environment.
  3. Event Marketing Materials: For events such as conferences, seminars, or trade shows, variable data printing enables the production of personalised event materials. This can include name badges, programs, and promotional items that feature attendee names, session schedules, and other relevant information, creating a more engaging and memorable experience for participants. Some companies even let attendees see the process before their eyes, creating a unique in-person experience and additional engagement.
  4. Variable Labels and Tags: Industries such as retail and manufacturing leverage variable data printing for the creation of customised labels and tags. This is particularly useful for products with variable attributes, such as size, colour, or pricing information. Variable labels ensure accurate product identification and enable efficient inventory management. Using specific fonts, it’s also possible to add barcodes to items.
  5. A jig with printed golf balls achieved using the variable data printing function
    A jig with printed golf balls achieved using the variable data printing function

Benefits of Variable Data Printing

The most significant advantage of variable data printing is the ability to personalise products on a large scale. Personalised products resonate more strongly with customers, fostering a sense of connection and relevance. In today’s market, this is more essential as personalised goods and services become the norm.

Moreover, variable data printing offers quicker turnaround times and greater flexibility compared to traditional printing methods. Rather than creating separate print files for each unique item, users can simply upload all the data in one operation, vastly cutting down set-up time.

With these benefits in mind, it’s easy to see how the additional cost of a variable data printing system can be justified. However, unlike a lot of print software providers, Roland DG’s VersaWorks 6 RIP platform is included in the cost of purchasing the printer. Not only is the RIP free, but variable data printing is only one in a vast array of productivity tools included.


Variable data printing has emerged as a game-changer in the printing industry, unlocking new possibilities for medium-to-large, personalised print runs. From printing batches of ID cards to printing multiple personalised items and beyond, the applications of VDP are diverse and impactful. Taking the time to understand this tool can unlock new opportunities and markets for Roland DG printer owners.

If you’re looking for new ways to boost productivity in your print operations, or want to know more about VersaWorks’ many features, contact a Roland DG expert who will be happy to help.

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