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FLEXO Magazine : May 2014
visual quality while applying the maximum gamut expansion to the flesh tone instead decreased perceived visual quality. After attempting to differentiate between colors based on L*a*b* value, they realized more of what was deemed the “correct” colors was dictated by psychology. “ We actually did some research and learned that this phenomena was well understood,” recalls Samworth. “People have preferences on how they want different types of images to be reproduced and these preferences are highly predictable. To oversimplify, people prefer to increase the chroma in an image as high as possible without making it look unnatural.” Although the phenomena of the “preferred reproduction” was well docu- mented, there were no tools to achieve it, particularly when converting a photographic image from 4-color to 7-color. “Now, through a user friendly interface and a series of curves related to lightness, chroma and hue, a user can get the benefit of truly color managed gamut expansion and be able to selectively discriminate according to color space how much gamut expansion to apply to different subjects,” Samworth says. SUNNY SKIES Equinox features a Photoshop plugin to convert RGB or CMYK images to 5-, 6 - or 7-color. It also features plug ins to the well established products ArtPro and PackEdge, for vector conversion of spot colors. New in 2014 will be the ability to automate the conversion of images and vector graphics in Automation Engine, Esko’s packaging graphics workflow. Equinox is applied in the prepress department while jobs are being readied for the press. Its expanded color gam- ut technology works in tandem with Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST) guidelines. The software allows jobs to be printed more economically and more consistently. It also enables “gang” pressruns, or combining multiple jobs into one run. A printer’s savings from gang runs, according to Esko, can eclipse $1 million per press annually. If any single technology can help flexo increase market share versus other print processes—particularly digital— Samworth believes it is expanded gamut. “Many of the bene- fits attributed to digital printing have nothing to do with digital printing and are actually benefits of printing with a fixed ink set,” he says. Lots of short run packaging is going digital al- ready and most long runs will remain flexo for the foreseeable future. Expanded gamut—fixed ink set flexo—enables flexo to compete with digital for short to medium runs. In the battle between efficiency and quality, Equinox improves both. Spot colors print more stably with 7-color Equinox than with custom mixed spot colors. Images look better. Above all, the total economic impact is extreme. For most flexo printers, implementing 7-color process—whether it’s called expanded gamut or fixed ink set printing—is the single largest step they can take to increase profitability. Equinox makes this large step easy. And Samworth says that future development efforts will focus on increasing ease of implementation. “ We don’t plan to stop our commitment until we make 7-color process as easy as CMYK.” n MAY 2014 | FLEXO 33