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Ink Management and Stencil Processing

(November 2001) posted on Mon Nov 05, 2001

Problems and solutions

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By Carol Swift, Peter Kiddell

How can you avoid similar problems in your company? One way is to develop an ink-cataloging system. Create two screens with a 2 x 2-in. square-image area. Use one screen for your solvent-based inks, the other for UV. With a manual print table, print two samples of every ink you have in stock onto small index cards for filing. For each color, dry or cure the prints, label them with the sample date (or better, the date they were mixed) and ink type, then tape one of them to the storage container. You may need to print extra cards if the same color is stored in multiple containers--each must be labeled.

The second card you store in a filing system (one file set for each ink type). It's wise to include a reference to where the ink is stored on these cards. Then file the color samples in spectral order, starting with red and finishing in violet, black, gray shades, and white. You now know what ink type and color every container holds, how old it is, and where it can be found.

As for the ink containers themselves, they must be organized for easy location. Store UV inks with the oldest toward the front of your inkroom shelves. Again, solvent-based inks are not so critical in terms of date. If you can't identify the ink system or its original order date, it's probably best to dispose of it.

The way to avoid this nightmare, however, is to manage the inks correctly in the first place. Even if your shop and ink inventory is small, organized matching, mixing, and storage will save a great deal of money. Always mix your inks by weight, never by "dollop" or "glug." Stir the inks thoroughly and record on the container what it is, how much is contained within, and when you mixed it. Creating a color-swatch index card at this stage can help prevent you from having to do so later.

For very small shops, ink manufacturers can assist in color matching needs by premixing inks. The key to this approach is to inform the supplier what type and color of substrate you will be printing on to ensure that you will get a matched color after printing.


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