All Things to All People…

By Mike Todryk / Published:

I graduated high school in 1979 (think “That 70’s Show”). After graduation when I was young and single, I had this new level of independence and freedom to do whatever I wanted, within reason. I didn’t have to focus on how my decisions would affect the other people around me the way I would with a family to support and take care of. I tried new and different things. As long as I was getting the results that worked for me at the time, everything was cool.

Fast forward a few years to 1985, and I married a woman with two small children (2 and 4). Everything was now different. I couldn’t just do whatever I wanted. I had to think about how my actions would fit in with the rest of the family. I had to do things differently in order to have harmony within my family. Also, each of my children had different personalities and required different methods of communication to achieve the best outcomes. Now, it was no longer just about me. It was about what was best for our family as a whole.

So, What Does This Have to do with Printing?

If you are a small shop with just one press or one press type, you have a certain amount of flexibility. You can often push boundaries. As long as the results you are getting are pleasing and satisfactory to your customers, all is well. But when you start to add multiple presses and multiple types of presses, everything changes. Everything now has to work together in harmony. You need to have a higher level of consistency between devices in case things need to get moved around. Each press requires a different type of set up to achieve the best outcome. Looking a lot like a family, right?

Different Strokes for Different Folks

When I first started my color journey in 2000, I worked in dye sublimation. It was definitely its own thing back then. There were no ISO standards, and the various digital inks were all made differently. All the press inks were also made differently. We went with what gave us the best color and saturation and as long as we were consistent run to run, we were all good. In 2015, I joined the team at IWCO, and it was completely different. We had three different production inkjet technologies across six different presses. That would eventually grow to seven different technologies across 12 different pressesbefore our newest HP PageWide presses even came in to play. In addition, we also had 18 different production litho web presses, two sheetfed presses, 12 flexo presses, and three toner presses. Each needed to have a shared appearance, as mail going out would often have six or seven different components in it, all printed on different paper stocks using different technologies.

Inkjet Differences

The first challenge was to figure out how to get our inkjet presses to be consistent with our litho presses. Production inkjet was new enough at the time that it was similar to dye sub when I first started. Everyone did things their own way. Some of the things that helped us right off the bat were:

  • Establishing a Standard: We needed to pick a target that would work across the platform. Since the digital presses had a little more flexibility in this regard, we chose CRPC3 for uncoated stocks and CRPC6 for coated stocks and applied those across the board. This immediately gave us better consistency and shared appearance. It didn’t hurt that all of the inkjet presses could hit CRPC3 at the time either.
  • Understanding your inkjet press: We next realized that we needed to deep dive into our inkjet presses and really understand how they were setup. What did they linearize to? Colorimetric or density? Curves or no curves? How do the spot tables (if the device had them) interact with the .ICC profiles? Could they be profiled with standard industry tools or did they need proprietary tools for profiling? Just like my kids, each press presented us with different joys and challenges. The more we understood what the press was doing and why, the better we could set it up to be consistent with the others and with our entire process.
  • G7: Back then, and still today, G7 was thought of as a tool for offset. It’s great for a litho press, but has little to no place in the digital world, except maybe as an input profile standard. G7 had allowed the dye sublimation press that I worked with to achieve a level of consistency that was unheard of at the time. We were the first G7 Master press that was exclusively dye sub, and our level of consistency allowed us to print things like the Disney Fairy costumes at Disneyland and bathing suits for Victoria’s Secret. IWCO began to inject G7 wherever we could in the process, which gave us a much better shared appearance across all our technologies.
  • Continuous Improvement: You can never rest on your laurels. You have to always be looking for ways to improve your process. Can you save some ink in the profiling process? Try it. Are there ways to streamline the process for operators? Do it. IWCO is constantly monitoring our color process looking for ways to improve.

Inkjet printing has been an amazing journey over the last eight years, and there are more good things to come. As IWCO continues to Make Better Happen, we will continue to try new inkjet technology and improve the processes for the technology we have. Feel free to contact me with any questions. I would love to hear from you.

About the Author

Mike Todryk

Mike Todryk is a Manager Color Technical Support for IWCO Direct, the leading direct mail marketing services provider in North America. Mike has been in the printing industry for 25+ years, specializing in Color Management for the last 22. He cut his teeth in the demanding world of dye sublimation before transitioning into commercial print. Mike became a G7 expert in 2008, helping his company to become one of the very first G7 Master printers that was exclusively dye sub. Mike is the resident G7 contact for IWCO Direct in Minnesota. When Mike is not geeking out on color, he enjoys playing his guitar and spending time with his family.

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