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Accurate, repeatable colour makes all the difference

By Hendrik Verbrugghe, Marketing Director, Canon Middle East and Canon Central and North Africa

“It’s good enough colour.” Veterans of the colour repro scene in the late 1980s will remember how manufacturers and users of high-end digital prepress systems used the phrase to characterise the results obtainable from the emerging desktop colour solutions. A decade later the offset community displayed similar opinions for output from the early colour digital presses.

In both cases, the implication was that the results were fine if your standards weren’t too demanding, yet in both cases the new technology on the block found a home. Advances in press design, ink technology and finishing have all contributed to the acceptance of digital as a quality process capable of handling almost all mainstream print applications.

For many of these applications, especially in the high-end segment of the market, top-quality colour output alone is not enough; colour must be accurate, consistent sheet-to-sheet and repeatable job-to-job. It must also be the same whatever the print process to enable “hybrid” production. A typical example of this is printing the bulk of a catalogue offset but personalising the cover digitally; or for added visual and tactile impact a mailshot might also incorporate several paper stocks with different weights and textures. Furthermore, clients using multiple marketing channels will demand consistent colour across both print and digital devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Being able to print accurate, repeatable colour impacts a PSP’s bottom line directly, for a number of reasons. There are the operational efficiencies that come from fewer jobs rejected or reprinted because of inconsistent colour, and from being able to split production between multiple output devices. As advances in ink and media technology make new print products possible, getting colour right whatever the specification is critical to being able to exploit the opportunities.

Under the circumstances, it’s no surprise that colour-managed workflow features prominently in PSPs’ investment plans. There is, however, another factor in the consistent colour equation — the performance of the digital print engine itself. You can’t just leave everything to the colour management software. Yet when it comes to investing in a new press too many PSPs pay too little attention to the engine’s contribution. “How repeatable is the device?” closely followed by “And how does it do it?” are questions that should be right up there with “How fast is the press?”

While some PSPs have previously overlooked the importance of consistent colour, the same cannot be said of digital press manufacturers, who have been concentrating their engineering efforts in this area for some time. A close examination of the latest presses reveals a host of incremental refinements designed solely with this in mind.
In developing the recently-launched Canon imagepress C10000VP, for example, Canon revisited three factors that are critical to delivering repeatable colour: the composition of the toner; how a consistent supply of toner and developer is delivered to the fusing station; and on-press monitoring and adjustment of the output.

In placing work, today’s print buyers regard consistent, repeatable, accurate colour print as absolutely essential. For PSPs looking ahead to their next production digital colour press, technology that delivers precise colour control should be equally non-negotiable. More than ever, good enough just isn’t good enough.

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