Learn about the various programs that ink manufacturers offer for tracking, mixing, and organizing inks and find out what improvements have occurred since our last review of ink-management software in the May 2001 issue of Screen Printing magazine.
By Lori Leaman
The programs calculate the total volume of ink required for a job, and hence, the total amount of each com-ponent needed to create that ink color. Many programs also estimate ink costs based on job details. All these values are displayed on screen instantly after you enter the required information.
A few programs are even designed to integrate with digital scales. When ink components are weighed out, the target weights may be displayed on screen along with a representation of the weight actually being recorded by the scale. If the ingredient falls slightly over or under the desired weight, the program automatically adjusts the amount of remaining components required and thereby keeps the color-formulation accurate. More advanced packages may drive automatic ink-dispensing systems.
Storing job specifications
The data-storage capabilities of ink-management programs are one of their most important features. Essentially, the programs are filing system for the mixing formulas they produce. The user can generally save formulas under job-reference numbers and store additional color-matching details, such as mesh count, screen tension, emulsion parameters, squeegee durometer, viewing conditions, and more, and recall this information at any time.
Ink-management software programs can help you keep track of ink usage. Most programs automatically revise their inventory records to reflect the decrease in any ingredient used for color mixing. Many also provide other inventory-control statistics, such as current ink volumes on hand and on order, reorder levels, prices, and total value of current inventory. The ink-management database may even support network environment and allow other departments in the company--such as accounting--to access the data.
Most ink-management programs include a recycling function that lets you create new colors by incorporating leftovers of already mixed colors with new mixing components. You simply select the code for the leftover color, then have the program search for other formulations that use the same components. Typically, the program not only lists acceptable new colors, but also details the amounts of leftover ink and new components that must be mixed to achieve a particular volume of the new color.
Most of the general features previously described can be found on any ink-management program, but each software package also has its own unique features and capabilities. The following sections consider each brand of ink-management software on the market today and highlight their specialized functions.
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