The pressures of short runs and lead-times make driving waste out of our workflow a top priority. Professionally managing ink in the workflow offers great potential for efficiency improvements, not least because colour adjustments on press can account for up to half of setup times.
Ink management involves dispensing systems, predictable proofing and software to share information with other IT systems.
Dispensing systems for colour-on-demand
A dispenser doses the exact ink quality and volume by calculating and mixing the recipe from barrels of base inks and varnishes. The operator enters the target colour and volume requirements into the interface; a computer calculates dosage volumes and activates the process. Press returns from previous jobs can be reused with ease in new recipes. GSE Dispensing’s range of modular dispensing systems comprises tailored solutions for all ink volume requirements, from labels through to flexible and corrugated board printing.
Offline proofing for better reliability and productivity
We believe that, when looking at the total ownership cost of the process, proofing is best done offline, rather than on the press. GSE Dispensing’s partner company, Print Proof Solutions, markets a table-top proofer, called the Perfect Proofer, in Europe. This compact proofing device uses in miniature the exact plate material, anilox cell counts and substrate as the press. As a result, it can provide a perfect simulation of the printing run and thus precisely predict the settings needed. Proofing is thus possible without using extensive amounts of costly substrates and inks.
The parallel proofing cycle also tends to be faster than the on-press method. In their book Setup Reduction for Printers, professors Malcolm Keif and Kevin Cooper argue that the first step of the setup reduction process is to identify each setup task as either internal or external. An internal activity is one where the machinery is idle (stopped) as the setup activity is performed (e.g. plate mounting). An external activity is completed while the equipment is in operation. The key to improving make-ready time, then, is to minimise internal processes. Keif and Cooper emphasise this point: “Ink proofing tools are getting very good. And if you control your processes well, you might find that you can do external ink color adjustments with precision. Put your brightest and best color operators on the task and you may found out that you have moved that function entirely external”.
GSE Dispensing’s ink management software (IMS) is an independent platform, as it offers standard integration with all commonly used colour formulation software solutions for packaging and label printers, like X-Rite’s ink formulation software. IMS also integrates with ERP/MIS software packages, providing the order manager real-time information about recipe availability after the corrected recipe has been stored. This will enable the packaging printer to achieve quick response manufacturing.
Increased press productivity? Improve your colour correction process!
At GSE Dispensing, we get many questions about correcting colours at the press. Our systems can offer both a one-time bucket adjustment and a recipe correction. Correcting the recipe is a permanent, ‘future proof’ solution. Adjusting the bucket is a temporary solution to compensate for unforeseen circumstances, like substrate colour deviations. If bucket adjustments are not archived, the return inks are not recyclable in new ink batches. To adjust colour at the press therefore, one should always measure the ink weight to achieve the right colour before supplying it to the press, then process this adjustment using the ink management software.
The recipe-changing process can be supported by a proofer and ink formulation software. Take the proof, measure the colour using CIELAB coordinates and, if the colours fall outside the required Delta-E parameters, the software makes a suggestion to correct the recipe. The new recipe is imported to our ink management software, and you can dispense a batch again. The colour is measured and, if correct, the adjusted recipe will be stored and the job goes to press.
Ink logistics auxiliary equipment enables you to gain the best long-term value out of your press, without needing heavy capital investments. The right equipment and software not only provide consistent colour corrections, but also the basis for less material waste and an increased (press) productivity.
Maarten Hummelen is marketing director at GSE Dispensing, Brummen, Netherlands