Drift is Real

(or: The Difference Between Bleed and Margin)

Published: 06/25/2018

Bleed and margin can seriously cramp your style. So why are printers so adamant about it? Because drift is real.

Drift is what we call the difference between a trim target and the actual trim. It is the shift that happens when printed sheets are placed into trimming machines. We strive to keep everything lined up perfectly, but in a mechanical operation like this, there is a margin for error. At Panda, our error tolerance is 1mm. If we had a smaller error tolerance, we’d have to dispose of any trimmed sheets that fell outside of that tolerance, which would drive up manufacturing costs. If we had a larger error tolerance, our product wouldn’t look as good, which would drive down our quality standards. We work hard at calibrating our equipment so we trim as accurately as possible. However, any component with less than 1mm drift is considered to be acceptable.

What that means to you is that in order to maximize the appearance of quality for your printed components, we ask that you provide even more than 1 mm of extra bleed and margin. Margin is the area between the trim line and the unique content. If you have a border that is only 1mm thick, we might trim it all off on one side and have twice as much on the other, which would be unsightly. If you have an icon that is only 1mm from the trim line, we might trim right up to it, making it look as though it has nearly fallen off of the component. To make sure that everything appears to be centered and intentionally placed even if it has been trimmed up to 1mm away from the trim line, we ask that you build everything with a little bit of extra space. We ask for a minimum of 3mm of margin, but you may find that more is even better. Bleed is the part of your file that is printed, but then trimmed off. Could we get away with 1mm of bleed? Possibly. However, that extra 2mm helps our technicians correctly set up your files for print, so we require that everything have at least 3mm of bleed.

You may have heard of printers without any drift. There are two ways that this can happen:

  1. The same machine prints and cuts. There is no recalibration and therefore no drift. This leads to significantly higher production costs as each printed sheet must be trimmed individually.
  2. All components with any drift are recycled. This is done at only the most premium production price point.

Panda strives to maximize quality without maximizing costs. Utilizing 3mm of bleed and margin are an important part of that.

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