Dot's Okay - Output Devices for Proofing
Presentation is everything—up to a point and down to a dot.
WITH RESPECT TO proofing, package printers must be prepared to be all things to all customers, or nearly so, and still be able to assure their customers that the proof they receive will reproduce accurately and consistently on both plates and press. To accomplish this, the printer will choose the technology or technologies that will provide him the tools to keep that promise.
Few would argue that packagers have special proofing needs. These include:
• Ability to proof on a wide range of packaging substrates, whether coated or uncoated, glossy or flat, smooth or rough, including metallics, plastics, and white-behind-color;
• Ability to accurately predict a wide gamut of custom process colors and Pantone spot colors;
• Ability to represent the three-dimensional characteristics of the finished package;
• Ability to accurately show trap and overprint characteristics;
• Ability to produce cost savings; and
• Ability to produce high-quality proofs for a range of uses.
Variability in any of these areas is anathema in brand-intensive, color-critical package converting; consequently, effective proofing solutions are designed to remove it from the process. As the graphics industry moves toward 100 percent digital workflows, including computer-to-plate (CtP), digital proofing technologies are replacing time- and labor-intensive film-based modalities with accurate, reliable digital proofing equipment that integrates easily with digital workflows. Installation of digital proofing systems in packaging environments is accelerating as flexographers also transition to CtP.
In digital proofing, the output device is still the center of attention, although inks or dyes, media, RIPs, and color management tools play critical supporting roles, and no discussion of the hardware should exclude them. Proofing technologies used in contemporary packaging applications belong in one of two broad categories: digital halftone and inkjet, specifically, piezo-electric drop-on-demand (DOD).