Navigating Industrial Print
Written by: Rachel Malley – Product & Applications Specialist with CGS ORIS | Americas
The world we live in today is fast paced with constantly changing trends and technology. Businesses are constantly modifying their products and workflows to push advancements forward and, of course, maintain or improve profitability. In our print production corner of the world, we are witnessing a major shift in the way some manufactured goods are being produced.
In recent years, we at CGS ORIS have had the opportunity to help non-print-related manufacturers, expand into this colorful world of ours. The type of manufacturing we have watched transition from hand-made to digitally printed includes products such as residential flooring, home siding, interior wall coverings, window trim, and so much more. This new, specialized market of production is classified as Industrial Print.
There can be a major learning curve when navigating industrial print. Seasoned printers looking for new markets to utilize existing equipment may have the advantage of already being familiar with print production. But if you are a manufacturer who is new to this world, we want to help introduce some topics to consider.
Considerations for precise color management
There are many factors influencing color output in print – substrate, ink set, image resolution, RIP settings, measurement device (wait… you don’t have a measurement device?). If you’ve bypassed the crucial step of color management, now’s the time to seek support. These considerations may introduce quite a few new terms and concepts, but don’t let that scare you off. Many of these topics are likely very familiar to your press operators, department managers, and color management professionals. As a team, your new or expanding color accurate workflow can be achieved.
Ideally, your equipment will be profiled on your desired substrate to match the specific output you are trying to achieve. This often requires a larger conversation to decide organization goals. Some topics to consider: Are you trying to utilize the full press gamut, or do you want multiple output devices to match each other? Where did your print file originate? Does the print file accurately represent the original? Print production, like manufacturing, has many variables that allow for customization when managing your new workflow.
Expanding existing print capabilities
If you already own a press, a productive first step should be discussing goals with your support team from the press manufacturer. They can advise on what profiling and color management tools are already available within your existing Digital Front End (DFE). Your operators are likely already trained in basic linearization and profiling functions, which is great for maintaining the output consistency of your device. Take their training a step further to ensure your operators have a solid understanding of how color output is managed throughout your existing workflow.
If you have a device already calibrated and profiled to the full extent of the DFE, but you still have trouble with the color output, it may be time to reach out to color management experts for additional insight and guidance. Color management professionals are skilled at finding areas for improvement in your environment and may recommend additional software to enhance your workflow.
Starting from scratch
If you have not yet purchased a press, and are shopping with various manufacturers, now is the time to consult with their technical members to understand the color management capabilities. At a minimum, you should ask what their typical press profile looks like. What gamut can be achieved on this device with your chosen ink set? This can vary greatly depending on the substrate so be sure to ask if you can provide the manufacturer with a sample of your typical substrate for a test. This will provide insight into the type of output you may expect from this equipment. Doing some initial investigation of the color gamut prior to purchasing can help set proper expectations for you and your clients.
After evaluating the press capabilities, look at the typical artwork that will be processed through this workflow. Are you sending print ready CMYK data, already configured for a standard color space like GRACoL? Or are you printing RGB files directly from a large format, industrial scanner? Are the colors in your artwork all within gamut for your new press, on your substrate? Or are there out of gamut colors that will be clipped to the nearest printable color? Again, investigating these topics ahead of time will help set proper expectations for everyone involved.
Embracing the experts
Having these technical discussions during purchasing or early implementation can help make your transition into industrial print a smoother ride. There are quite a few factors to consider to really nail down the color output, but it is very possible to achieve with the proper tools and education. There are many resources available for free online, color management courses you can take in person, and countless color management experts ready to travel on-site to address your specific workflow requirements.
Here at CGS ORIS, we have supported many organizations over the last few years either expand their commercial print environments or develop new industrial print workflows. Every environment is unique. Reach out today so we can help ease your transition into this growing industry!