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Are you printing to the ISO standard?

Monday, 20 August 2007
By Print 21 Online Article

Alan Dresch of Mellow Colour UK can tell you the honest answer…

Most colour printers know that the process they run is at best only just under control. The more you learn about offset lithography the more you realise just how unstable the process is. The technology is improving but I liken a big press to a wild animal – you’ll never completely train it, but you can try to understand why it does what it does, and you can encourage it to go where you want it to.

Traditionally, print colour appearance has been controlled with the Mk 1 Eyeball with some densitometric help, but as we all have a slightly different idea of what is acceptable, this method of quality control has led to a great deal of customer /supplier tension over the years.

Printing to the ISO standard on the other hand defines where you are trying to get to with colourmetric targets and the use of spectrophotometry shows you how close you are. Using colour measurement to quantify and tune print appearance is a relatively new trend and has to be a step in the right direction from both the customer and supplier point of view.

If as a printer you use a standard to aim for, along with good colour analysis software, you will see exactly what is going on with your process and this allows you to take remedial action when it starts to drift. The variables in the lithographic printing process are considerable as we all know, and pinpointing them is the key to controlling them.

The ISO 12647 is now internationally accepted as the benchmark for four colour process printing. The ISO targets are high and the use of good quality equipment and consumables is essential. However the targets are achievable in practise and if you consistently print to the ISO specification you will be producing some very fine printing indeed.

It’s fairly easy to get a press printing to a standard, it is very difficult however to do it on a week-in week-out basis without a genuine commitment to colour quality management, which requires a change in company culture not just a certificate in reception.

Customers have every right to expect that you to print consistently to a standard, but using standards as a big stick to beat you with is counter productive, there has to be give and take on both sides–occasionally a printer can actually ‘save’ a piece of print on press, by printing outside of the ‘standard’ if it has been incorrectly separated by the customer.

So the message is that printing to specification is a great benchmark to measure ones performance against, and a great tool for communication between customer and supplier, but it should not be used as the definitive pass/fail arbitrator of print quality.

If you are a printer you will print outside of tolerances on occasion, but if you do it consistently you might want to take a look at your process and apply some adjustment to get it back into the centre of the ‘Quality Zone’. If you are a print buyer and your supplier prints out of tolerance consistently, you might think about getting together and finding out exactly what is going on. By looking at the colour measurements, the problem should be fairly obvious to identify, and the issue can be resolved without the discussion degenerating into the tiresome ‘in my opinion’ conversation, which can so often have a negative impact on the valuable Customer/Supplier relationship.

I’m proud to be part of the printing Industry, everyone I meet in my day to day work genuinely wants to do a good job and these days we need to be slick, and quick and more efficient, which means measuring the process and continually striving to control and improve it.

This is a new job in the printing industry; it’s a challenge, and one that we need to rise to if we want our industry to prosper.

Meet Alan Dresch, of Mellow Colour UK on the DES stand 2008 at Printex 2007

Alan Dresch will be at Printex with colour company DES to take the first step towards helping you achieve ISO standards and controlled, consistent colour.

Demonstrating Mellow Colour’s leading PrintSpec software, Dresch will be showing how PrintSpec assures consistent print appearance, job-to-job and device-to-device, either to an ISO standard or a customised in house target. This software offers more than proof-to-press colour consistency; PrintSpec aims to achieve a more efficient workflow, reducing time, cost, waste and improved customer satisfaction.

Free Press Colour Health Check

You can put you prints to the test with a free PrintSpec press colour health check. Visit download the strip, print it and bring it along to DES stand 2008 for an on-the-spot press health check.

PrintSpec(tm) is the Colour Quality system developed for print professionals that insist on predictable and consistent print appearance.

This article was brought to you by Are you printing to the ISO standard?

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