Beyond the Densitometer – Part 2

Improve Pressroom Efficiencies – Part 2

Last week, we kicked off our 3-part blog series looking at “Good”, “Better”, and “Best” upgrade options for packaging printers to reduce their make-readies, improve their color matching process, and attain more consistent color throughout their pressruns. In part 1, we examined the benefits of switching from densitometers to handheld spectrophotometers in flexographic pressrooms. As discussed, this is a relatively easy upgrade because these instruments still measure the familiar process control metrics like density & TVI. However, spectrophotometers go well beyond the capabilities of densitometers and most importantly they also measure the true color values (CIELab) of brand and spot colors as well as the absolute color differences (deltaE) between brand colors and printed results. This week in Part 2, we explore a “Better” solution which details the benefits of using a pressroom spectrophotometer and adding press-side color quality software, such Techkon ChromaQA.

Better: Adding Press-Side Color Quality Software
Overview: Press-side color quality solutions offer enormous advantages by connecting different departments, users, and print locations for easier communication, visibility, reporting, traceability, and accountability regarding color quality. These software solutions are typically network or cloud-based utilizing SQL databases and are highly scalable to accommodate the needs of small and large production environments. With software installed on computers in the Ink, Prepress, Production, and Quality departments, the communication of color standards, job information, and tolerances has never been easier. In addition, because color measurements from printed samples are saved to the database, these software solutions offer sophisticated reporting tools.

Typically, prepress will create “jobs” that contain the aim CIELab color values for each color in the artwork along with critical print metrics (density, TVI curves, etc.) and associated tolerances. The job is then saved in the software’s database until it is running on press. Once on press, the operator opens the job and has all of the aim values and tolerances loaded onto their computer screen. At this point, during make-ready, the operator uses their handheld spectrophotometer to measure the required color patches indicated in the software and they are immediately shown PASS/FAIL indicators for the print metrics in the job along with recommendations on how to improve the color match. Beyond make-ready, operators typically continue to measure printed samples throughout the press run (usually at the end of each roll) to ensure color accuracy and consistency throughout the job.

Key Benefits:
  • Color quality solutions have the ability to directly control press-side spectrophotometers which includes automatically configuring the instrument measurement settings and ensuring the instrument calibration is performed at the recommended intervals to ensure accurate color measurements. Together, this lowers the prerequisite skill level and spectrophotometer knowledge required by the press operators.
  • Once a job is opened in the color quality software, all color standards, print metrics, and tolerances are easily and precisely communicated to the press operator and loaded into their software. This ensures everyone is targeting the same aim color values & print metrics across shifts, locations, and future re-runs of the job.
  • Large, easy to understand, graphics present PASS/FAIL indications according to tolerances set up in the job for color and print metrics (CIELab, ∆E, density, TVI, G7, etc.). Corrective actions are also displayed to help operators make the most efficient changes and quickly get within the job tolerances. This information reduces the barrier of entry for newer, younger press operators and helps to ensures color accuracy and consistency across different press operators.

Screenshot from Techkon ChromaQA showing dashboard of critical print metrics

  • ScoreCard systems are typically included in color quality solutions and allow individual print metrics to be weighted, scored, and rolled up into a single PASS/FAIL number that can be used to more easily assess the color quality of the job.
  • When the job is complete, every color measurement is saved back to the job so the Quality department can prepare job reports for either internal stakeholders or the brand customer demonstrating adherence to the job color specifications.
  • Many color quality solutions also include powerful query and data analysis tools which can leverage the mass quantities of job and color data being captured and saved into the database. These tools deliver actionable insights to help ensure more accurate and repeatable color results with continued savings through reduced make-ready times, less waste, and fewer job re-do’s.
Next week in Part 3, we will examine the “Best” solution for pressroom color quality control with a look at the advantages of inline color measurements using Techkon’s SpectroVision system. If anyone has any questions or would like to learn more about Techkons products, please feel free to call us anytime. In addition, for those readers that will be attending FTA’s Infoflex conference in March, please either schedule a time for a one on one live product demonstration or just stop on by booth #611 to say hello! Take care and talk to you next week!

You can read the other two parts of the blog here: