Bright, Shiny and Colorful- What’s in My Toolbox
The inkjet industry has expanded way past just paper and has moved into industrial manufacturing which includes image printing and color simulation. Now, color profiles must be created for textile substrates which vary from smooth to pitted and from dull to shiny. This makes it challenging to select which spectrometry tool is best.
Color management is not just about measuring printed color on a surface, but also controlling the media surface you are measuring. Working on various inkjet processes from packaging, commercial and industrial, I have found there is not just one tool which can cover all workflow and substrate requirements for color profiling. This has made my toolbox quite diverse indeed.
I recently expanded my toolbox once more by adding the X-rite i1Basic PRO 3 to my iSis, iOne Pro2, Xact and ColorGate Rapid Spectro Cube family of tools.
Why do you need so many different devices? Each measurement device has a specific purpose relative to the task and substrate you are working with. In some cases, there are also additional benefits to the user such as being hand-held versus automated and travel friendly.
Let’s talk about some color management tools and their differences.
X-rite iOne Pro 3- Industrial Color Management on the Road
This small, portable, hand-held unit is the sister to the 2mm aperture, iOne Pro 2, but offers a larger diameter aperture of 8mm. Allowing a larger spectral measurement of color for patches printed on non-traditional surfaces such as metals, plastics, ceramics, fabric and corrugated. Such substrates show more dot placement deviation, ink spread, coalescence or varied color shift because of surface tension, material, or higher than normal drop throw distance. A larger aperture measurement allows such deviation within a patch to be “averaged out” and not “singled out” lessening the affect of lighter or darker readings of the same printed patch.
For reflective surfaces like metals, it offers an optional polarization feature which reduces reflections in shadows and highlights.
Although non-automated without the iOne iO table, this unit is beneficial for fabric color profiling. The larger aperture captures a larger area which contains uneven ink spread, mottle or spectral deviation caused by printed fabrics with unique material qualities such as weave, fiber count, elasticity, and absorption.
This unit has its own compatible targets like all X-rite measurement devices. For automated scanning, it integrates with an i1iO table which is purchased separately. Although it would have made sense to have the iOne table for the iOne Pro 2 be compatible with the Pro 3, X-rite thought different. A separate purchase of a Pro 3 compatible table is required for anyone who wants to automate measurement readings with the 8mm iOne Pro 3.
When working on industrial projects on the road, I use the iOne Pro 3 in handheld scanning mode, when substrates are too thick or large for an iO table. The table is quite sensitive and not travel friendly so I wind up just packing the iOne Pro 3 unit by itself anyway.
X-rite iOne iSis- Commercial and Packaging Color Management on the Road
The iSis, although the name does not seem that friendly, has been my go-to, highly portable automated chart reader for years. Available in 2 models which cover A4/Letter and A3/Tabloid, this handy unit can quickly scan a range of media from 0.08 to 0.45mm paper and film.
This compact 16.5” x 6.3” x 4.7” unit, weighing only 7lbs, looks like a centrifuge and gives airport security pause when evaluating your carry-on luggage. (Probably doesn’t help that it says Isis) Designed for portability, there is a locking scan mechanism to ensure safe travel.
Popular for commercial offset and inkjet printing papers, it includes M0, M1 and M2 measurement conditions to address the additive papers OBA’s (optical brighteners).
Unlike the handheld iOne Pro 3, this device is not compatible with reflective surfaces and has been known to have feeding issues with highly coated films.
ColorGate Rapid Spectro Cube (RSC) – Industrial, Textile and Complex Color Management- In Lab
At 32 lbs., the RSC is specially designed for capturing color spectral data for complex industrial substrates which have detailed surfaces such as non-white, tinted, or colored substrates such as corrugated, leather, wood, ceramics, fabric, and stone. Along with textured, it also captures flat transparent and backlit media. Considered bulky luggage, it includes a wheely system with retractable handle.
If you have ever tried to create a color profile for carpet or highly textured media such as fabric, you will appreciate the difference. This unit, unlike typical spectrophotometers which read flat patches with fixed illumination, the RSC captures the entire “textured” printed pattern as a whole high resolution image with omni-directional illumination, creating a specific capture size which corresponds with each printed patch. The capture size can be increased for patches which show print deviation for averaged readings. This increases the scan time as well as allows profiling substrates which cannot be touched or create deviations in light reflectivity when scanning.
I am lucky enough to have one of these in my toolbox and have profiled such printed materials as un-sanded wood, carpet, fabric and cement.
Although assembled 3.5’ square, it may seem large but, this unit captures a wide range of imagery from 3.25” thick with maximum target size of 17.7×17.7” to profiling patches for small industrial items such as bottle caps requiring 1mm patch size.
The RSC is not just for color profiling, but also has an optional capture mode which captures image surface detail for designers who wish to reproduce imagery with image depth reproduced well beyond a common fixed illumination glass image scanner.
Its About Using the Right Tools
As inkjet moves into every aspect of printing and manufacturing, color technology has followed suit with developing tools to for various substrate color profiling. Although it can be confusing to find the best one for your specific need, we are here to help.
Each of the devices mentioned have their own space within the color spectrometry market. If you have any questions, please contact us at Inkjet Insight as we continually work with all aspects of substrate from paper, metal, wood and glass.
From paper to concrete, we no longer have to ask ourselves can we profile but, what tool do we use to complete the task.