What’s the Best Spectrophotometer for Automation in the Pressroom?

I know what you’re thinking…..”he’s the ‘Techkon guy’ so naturally he’s going to say that a Techkon spectrophotometer is best”. And you would be right! Then, I could go on and on and give all the reasons why our instruments are so much better than the other, “x-type”, devices. However, I’ll save that comparative information for another session because the focus of this blog is about how to automate your pressroom color measurements for increased efficiencies like shorter make-readies which saves both time and money. By now, we’ve all heard about “Industry 4.0”, “Smart Manufacturing”, and the trend for increased automation and connectivity throughout manufacturing. So I thought we could spend a few minutes looking at automated color measurements in the pressroom and how the best spectrophotometer for the job really depends on the type of print technology being used. So let’s break it down and answer this question for both sheet-fed offset and flexographic print applications.

Sheetfed Offset Presses
Typically, color bars run across the sheet and contain CMYK solid color patches repeated for each ink zone across the press along with various process tint, 2-color overprint, 3-color gray balance, and/or G7 color patches. Here, it’s critical for press operators to measure, adjust, and control the solid ink densities across the sheet and without a doubt, the Techkon SpectroDrive is the best choice for sheet-fed offset environments. This is an automated scanning spectrophotometer that comes in a variety of sizes to accommodate press widths up to 80+ inches. Scanning a 40 inch sheet is done in less than 8 seconds and measured density, TVI, and deltaE values are displayed on a touch screen display for each ink zone along with recommended ink key adjustments. The system ships with our Expresso software for operator adjustments at the press console while optional closed-loop software is also available for a completely automated workflow that even includes ink pre-setting based on CIP3 data for the job. Finally, as good as that sounds, the SpectroDrive measurement head can also be lifted right off the scanning track by the operator so it can be positioned anywhere on the sheet and used as a spot measurement device too.

Flexographic Presses
For flexo applications, if there is room for color bars, they are positioned in the bearer bars that run on the edges of the roll and which run in the direction of the substrate. However, in many cases, there simply isn’t enough room for such color bars and then color measurements must be taken from inside the image area. In either case, Techkon’s SpectroVision is set to revolutionize the flexographic printing industry by enabling increased color accuracy and consistency, significant make ready savings, and at a price that is affordable for printers of all sizes. SpectroVision is an automated color measurement, color QC, solution that can be installed on flexo presses for real time color measurements during the press run at speeds of over 1,000 ft/min. It’s full, 31-point, spectrophotometer is guided by a high resolution digital camera to find the exact location of color patches, color bars, and any specified in-image measurement location. In fact, SpectroVision can measure a press control strip containing up to 100 color patches in a single printed impression. As a result, the SpectroVision provides measurement data back to the press operator at incredible speeds, cutting traditional make-ready times and materials in half. Gone are the days of stopping the press, cutting out a control strip, taking offline color measurements, making color adjustments, starting the press again, and then repeating this cycle to check color quality during make-ready and throughout production. With SpectroVision, press operators get immediate, real-time, color results including spectral, CIELab/Lch, deltaE, density, and TVI (dot gain), along with recommendations to optimize color matching results, while live trend graphs show color performance metrics throughout the entire press run. In addition, SpectroVision is capable of real-time ANSI/ISO style bar code grading and live web viewing of registration marks and other critical image details.

So depending on what you call it, “Industry 4.0”, “automated color control”, “automated color measurements”, “color QC”, or “print quality management”, Techkon has automated solutions for both offset and flexo presses that can drastically cut your make-ready costs, increase your color accuracy, and ensure consistent color throughout your pressrun. Give us a call to learn more and let us build you a custom ROI so you can see exactly how the power of automation in the pressroom can start saving you money today.