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Top Tools for the Inkroom

(August 2013) posted on Wed Sep 04, 2013

Improve color accuracy and increase savings with ink-management solutions.

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By Ray Smith

For years, ink-management systems have been available to printers in the form of solutions for ink mixing. Most print shops evaluating these systems are looking for help with color matching in production. While color matching is a very important aspect of these systems, the incredible control and cost savings that an ink-management system brings to overall print-shop operations are actually the most valuable benefits.

When is the best time to invest in a mixing system? Incorporating this technology makes sense for shop owners faced with any of the following scenarios:
• The shop can no longer rely on pre-mix colors to satisfy all of the print jobs.
• The ink technician has trouble hitting target colors by mixing standard, pre-mix colors.
• The pre-mix colors are getting too expensive to re-order.
• It’s difficult to manage ink inventory.
• The shop needs to know the real ink usage and costs of the individual print jobs.

Color correct
Mixing systems (Figure 1) provide more accurate color compared to mixing and matching standard inks because the mixing-system components are created with single pigments. Standard pre-mixed colors, on the other hand, consist of multiple pigments in each color.

When a shop mixes color using standard inks, the final mix is multi-pigmented, causing color shifts and subtle differences that make it difficult to repeat when needed (Figure 2). For example, creating a green in a mixing system with a yellow and blue will generate a consistent and bright green. However, with off-the-shelf colors, the yellow may have some red pigment in it. When mixed with a royal blue (also containing red pigment), the result will be a very dull green.

A mixing system provides color accuracy because the components are always the same and it is easy, mathematically, to predict the outcome. This alone saves on labor cost, time loss, and ink waste.

In addition to these benefits, the overall component costs of mixing systems make it possible to make custom colors and reduce costs. For instance, a pigment and base system will create a color utilizing small portions of the premium component (pigment concentrate) and larger amounts of the value component (base) (Figures 3A and 3B). The shop can therefore create a standard ink for a fraction of the cost compared to buying the finished color direct from an ink manufacturer.


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