Are your doctor blade chambers set up in a fashion that maximizes the efficiency of ink flow and transfer to the anilox roll and plate?
What is true color management, and who is responsible for it? Is it premedia, or equipment suppliers, or operators, or someone else entirely?
Tales From the Time Machine
We spent many hours back in the mid 1980’s working on multiple shifts, perfecting our notion of color management: A little extender here, a cup of warm red there, reflex blue in this, glycol in that, measure density and add impression. While we were able to painfully get the result needed at that exact moment, the reality was we were nothing more than chemistry students in the flexo class of 1985 – minus the degree.
After spinning the proverbial wheels for a couple of years, it became clear there had to be a better way to ease the frustration. Studying the available educational materials – ink under my fingernails, countless shirts and uniforms ruined, following long hours of trial and error – the obvious conclusion was there is no substitution for optimizing, verifying and utilizing the basics of good prepress/pressroom process and procedures.
Being diligent and disciplined in these basic principles makes the Holy Grail of consistent color reproduction attainable. Is it simple? It can be with an investment of time and effort. We refer to it as “beyond color management.” We often don’t make or have time to ensure we as an industry and those we charge to achieve the Holy Grail go through the steps of dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s, due in part to becoming accustom to not sweating the small stuff. But ignoring the small stuff can and often does lead to big issues.
We’ve adopted the phrase “take your time in a hurry”; it has become our production mantra. The basic steps of true color management have been lost in the mix and flurry of just in time (JIT) printing while well rounded pressroom practices have given way to sophisticated implementation of software, hardware and relying on the “hot product” of the moment.
We’re not saying emerging technologies don’t have their place in graphics and the pressroom. Trisoft, like many in the packaging industry, would have never evolved to where it is without these transformative technologies, But lacking the basic knowledge and understanding of how they complement each other in today’s printing environment can lead to unnecessary capital equipment expenditures and costly man hours.
Carpet bombing the target doesn’t always get the job done. Laser guided focus by way of simplified, cost efficient, basic procedures and practices still needs to be part of the daily SOP. While most will say color management starts in the premedia sector, most will agree it lives and dies when the ink hits the substrate.
Very or Extremely Important
This graph illustrates the various concerns and needs in today’s print market and their value in relation to “importance” or priority. Coming up to color faster, higher press speeds and reduced ink consumption are the three most important priorities from a flexo printer’s point of view.
OPTIMIZE, VERIFY, UTILIZE
Optimization is an essential part of the process needed to implement a sound strategy. This ensures proper use of materials and equipment as it is intended for the task at hand. As a premedia supplier, it’s not enough to ensure we are taking all the necessary steps to make a good proof or plate. Simple tasks like pressroom audits, hands on, real time, live on the job training and inefficiencies must be part of the optimization that brings focus to the printer’s daily needs.
Too often we can get caught up in a “save the pennies while spending the dollars” concept. It can be as easy as selecting the proper materials and utilizing them in the correct manner for which they are intended:
Efficient verification procedures of measurement tools, raw materials, substrate quality, ink certificates of analysis, plate inspection viscosity/pH control, viewing inspection and so on are all small things that need to be accounted for. These factors alone can greatly affect good solid ink density, and we all know when ink density goes south, the rest of the print process usually goes with it. These very important elements make up a good, consistent, color managed product.
They are not sophisticated in their implementation, yet they play an essential role that goes beyond color management. As a premedia supplier, we have to ensure we have aligned our technology with an optimized solution to maximize the results in a cost efficient and consistent manner.
It’s important the trade shop, printer/converter, vendor, educator, manager or whoever gets involved with the product and process doesn’t lose sight of the basic needs that drive good color efficiencies and progress. Smart prepress, smart plates, smart anilox rolls, inks and digital presses will never get smarter and be efficient without the basic optimization, verification and utilization of our process and procedures in today’s printing technologies and markets.