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FLEXO Magazine : February 2012
before putting them on press—making sure that the 50 percent dot area is not really 75 percent. This is just one example of catching a problem early and upstream in the process by the simple expediency of utilizing a plate reader (often called a digital microscope) as a reality check before going to press. A TeAm efforT Often, questions such as, “Are inks the right colors?,” or “Are substrates up to spec?,” are asked with no specific answer. When tackling color process control for an entire plant (let alone a multi-site printing operation) begin thinking in terms of the benefits to be reaped by controlling color “locally,” one area at a time. Taking a tiered implementation approach, starting with the most problematic areas, is not only more practical but more realistic. The following are some practical sug- gestions to help get the ball rolling: • Assign an individual who is respon- sible for identifying areas that have the greatest need for a quality color control process, and can work with various departments within the plant to objectively isolate color control issues. If not viable, engage a consultant (budget permitting) • Ask the question, “Where do most of our troublesome color control issues come from, and how do they manifest themselves?” Effectively trace the path of a “bounced” job to determine where the color problem originated • If problems originate in ink formula- tion, focus your efforts on imple- menting a process that determines whether the ink you or your vendors are formulating is within customer specification • If problems center on substrate, determine acceptable tolerances preferably using a FIRST (Flexo- graphic Image Reproduction Spec- ifications and Tolerances), ISO, Gracol or SWOP industry standard and use a spectrodensitometer to measure incoming materials to qualify and quantify if they fall within acceptable tolerances CusTomer CommuniCATion It is helpful when customer colors are clearly defined and by what method. There are various methods a customer will use to communicate the colors they want to see on press, many of which offer unique and sometimes substantial challenges. A customer may provide a digital proof, a press sheet from a previously printed job, business cards, company letterhead, industry standard color guides (swatch books), or may even have L*a*b* color values ob- tained from either the industry standard color guides or colors from a previous pressrun. Establish what the customer views as acceptable color tolerances. Learn the challenges of working with what they supply for color match. The following are a few suggestions on how to overcome those challenges. Industry-accepted color guides can (and will) have vast color differences from each other. A color guide printed in 2009 will visually and measurably be different from the color guide printed in 2011. Even color guides printed in the same year or on the same pressrun can demonstrate vast color differences. If the customer is using a color guide to visually define the color they want to use on the pressrun, then it is important that specific guide becomes the “Bible” 30 FLEXO february 2012 www.flexography.org