Competition in the print industry is fierce and profit margins are thin. As a result, companies have to be diligent when making capital equipment purchases. When it comes to equipment that helps maintain inline/continuous print quality for every print impression, costs can range from $30K for an inline spectrometer or densitometer to nearly $300K for a full vision print inspection system.
Which one do you need?
That depends. Here are three things to consider before you decide on the most effective way to improve your continuous print quality.
1. What do your customers need?
Identifying your customers and which industries they are in is the first critical thing you need to determine. Companies that service the food or pharmaceutical industries have to adhere to extremely strict print specifications and rigorous tolerances many times regulated by government agencies. The only way to ensure that they meet these standards is by using a full-featured inspection system. These systems check for print defects, registration, spelling errors, smudges, etc. If your customers or the prospects you hope to land are in these industries, you will likely need to invest in the higher end solution.
However other commercial printers, especially those producing packaging, may not require that same level of inspection. All customers expect high levels of print quality with accurate, consistent color. In particular, brand owners demand that brand colors be exact. The less expensive inline spectrophotometer device can guarantee that you hit the brand color every time through its checks for color consistency, dot gain, and ink density. Using an inline spectrophotometer, you are able to maintain this exact color consistency on every impression, not just at the beginning and end of the roll.
2. How controlled is your overall process?
Use of state-of-the-art technology greatly contributes to producing a quality printed product. However, before committing to an expensive capital equipment purchase, you should review your current manufacturing process, equipment and materials.
The first step to significantly improving the quality of your print may be through implementing an aggressive maintenance plan for your existing print equipment.
Review the raw materials – ink, paper, plates – that you are using and make sure they meet the specification levels needed to produce quality printed material.
Audit your in-process and final inspection standards to ensure that the process is controlled enough to guarantee consistent continuous print quality throughout each run.
Once these areas are all under control, you can then determine the level of quality you are able to produce. At that point you can decide whether you need to invest in a high-end full vision inspection system or less expense inline spectro device to yield the results you need.
3. What is your goal?
Finally, you need to clearly understand what you hope to accomplish with the purchase. If your goal is to enter new markets that require more stringent quality tolerances, then you will likely need to make the investment in a full vision inspection system. Calculate an in depth Return on Investment (ROI) analysis taking into consideration the cost of the new system against the expected new revenues from your expansion into the higher quality markets.
If your goal is cost reduction, you may not need to make such a high-end investment. Although a full vision system will surely improve your process and save money, you may be able to achieve significant savings with an inline spectrophotometer at a much-reduced cost and higher ROI. With the less expensive solution, you will still be able to cut make-ready time, reduce waste and minimize remakes due to inconsistent ink color. At the same time, you will still be able to achieve high levels of color consistency, particularly in the area of color branding.
Making the right call on capital equipment purchases can be difficult. Answering these three questions will help start you on the way to making the right decision.
by Tom Condardo