Calibrating the Printing Plant
The Printing Plant is a privately-held narrow-web flexographic printer in Cincinnati that has been in operation since 1979. The company has grown considerably over the years, adding experienced staff and state-of-the-art equipment. Yet as with most every part of printing these days, there is always room for improvement. Especially with color.
One of The Printing Plant's key improvement moves was customer-driven and began with the firm's digital press. Customers were increasingly searching for and demanding G7 qualified printers. The company decided that becoming G7 qualified for both its digital and flexo presses was an important part of its strategy for meeting the demands of existing customers and for future growth.
Beginning the Process
The Printing Plant began the G7 qualification process (see sidebar, The G7 Path to Accurate Color) working with a consultant to help qualify the company's EFI-Jetrion digital press. Once work on the press was complete, the company started the process for its 10-color flexo press. However, this required flexographic printing experience beyond that of the consultant, so the process paused.
Help came from the company's plate house, which recommended Catherine Haynes, a G7 Expert at All Printing Resources. Haynes was said to be more than qualified to manage the process that would lead it to formal qualification by IDEAlliance (see sidebar, About the Players) as a G7 Master Printer.
John Hayden, production project manager for The Printing Plant, met with Haynes and retained her to facilitate implementation of the G7 process and submit documentation and samples to IDEAlliance on the company's behalf. Haynes began by supplying the team with an agenda and helped with building the test form and planning the schedule for the press runs.
The first phase of the calibration process required linear press runs of IDEAlliance's test forms to benchmark where The Printing Plant was in terms of color accuracy, and to provide a basis for development of any color curve adjustments. The second phase involved rerunning the test form to validate that the adjustments worked and highlight any additional changes required. Finally, a third run was done to confirm the results. The entire process consumed three days, ending with both the EFI-Jetrion digital press and the Nilpeter/Roto 10 flexographic press being qualified.
Haynes says the calibration has a two-fold benefit. First, it brings a printing process into a known state—one defined by standards that direct users to a commonly agreed upon "state of order." Second, it helps extend the life of the process by always bringing it back to that known state—the original specifications.
The G7 Difference
The Printing Plant was already measuring density and dot gain before G7 qualification began, so Haynes helped the team understand the difference between measuring gray balance versus only watching color. Hayden worked with Haynes during the qualification process, helping measure all the samples, watching, learning and then sharing that information with his team. Now, whether he is on site or not, the team can make sure that the process is followed correctly.
Getting a "buy-in" from press operators was a non-issue, explains Hayden. "We had spectrophotometers, densitometers, and were already doing most of the measurements that are required. No new tools or training were needed, and we made operators' jobs easier." In fact, all the company's color jobs are now handled using G7 processes, ensuring that each is measured to a consistent standard.
Realizing G7 Benefits
With G7 qualification completed, The Printing Plant can continue applying the gray-balancing process on all its jobs. And it's just the beginning. More advanced G7 qualifications are available and will require another submission process through a G7 Expert. And for that, The Printing Plant plans on calling Haynes.
"Catherine knows what she is doing," affirms Hayden. "She is professional, knows flexo printing, is easy to work with, and explains everything clearly. And now we understand what is needed and can easily maintain the process. And we're ready for the next customer asking for G7 qualification."
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