Whose Responsibility Is It?

In working with many traditional printers moving to inkjet, I hear the same comment over and over. “So what, it’s just paper…Right? I spent millions of dollars on inkjet, why do I have to waste ink and time testing all of these papers?”

This comment is a perfectly valid one.

Inkjet is a new and wonderful “disruptive technology” that is ever-changing to adapt to customer and market needs. Speed requirements are pushing print head jetting capabilities which, in turn, is requiring changes in inkjet fluid chemistry. All of these changes are being done to ensure ink and print head compatibility.

Once the inks are developed, the paper mills modify and develop paper and surface treatments, as well as coatings, to ensure these new ink fluids and paper surfaces are compatible.

Inkjet printing on uncoated, treated, or coated papers requires compatibility between the substrate surface and the ink chemistry, as well as understanding the proper amount of ink to apply to the surface. A change to any of these elements will cause gamut and density loss, drying or curing issues, show through, cockle, mottling, as well as cutting, folding and inserting issues.

With print heads, inkjet fluids and paper continually changing, who is responsible to ensure the inkjet customer has the proper, compatible substrates ready to use upon a multimillion-dollar inkjet installation?

Is it the OEM? Since ensuring runnability and compatibility with many papers is crucial to the sale. This requires OEM warehousing logistics and analysis of hundreds of paper grades and weights.

Is it the paper mills? Since they need a portfolio of substrates, which are consistently manufactured, to stay compatible with changing fluids. This requires OEM inks to be integrated into the paper manufacturing/testing process, as well as having the proper jetting devices for testing.

Mary Schilling works with all the elements of the digital process-from conventional and inkjet technologies to fluids and substrates-and provides technical support to print providers on optimizing print quality while lowering total print cost. Understanding the dynamics of the digital marketplace, and the incredible growth and advancements in inkjet technology, Mary provides customers with print quality, color gamut, fluid consumption, machine and print quality analysis, utilizing G7 methodology. She also works with inkjet fluid and machine developers to align paper development of new, innovative inkjet substrates. As the owner of Schilling Inkjet Consulting, she consults with fluid and inkjet machinery suppliers and end users on how to improve color and print quality for paper, plastics, metal, fabric and glass with UV, solvent and aqueous inkjet fluids. Mary received Innovator of the Year awards from the Flexographic Technical Association and from Xplor International for her efforts in closing the gap between document printing and digital packaging. She is G7 certified and a member of the IDEAlliance Print Properties Committee.
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  • Mark Hunt, Standard Finishing

    Great to see thoughtful attention to this subject. As a supplier of both in-line and near-line finishing gear for inkjet presses, we often end up in the middle of this debate. Paper manufacturers play a central role: percent fiber versus filler, fiber length, filler composition, coatings and a host of other variables influence paper stiffness and ultimately finishing performance. Chemical interaction between paper and ink is a science unto itself. Even if the digital press and pre/post manufacturers could test every weight and grade of paper, there are external factors too, like paper storage, climitization, and environmental static. Inkjet press, paper and finishing equipment manufacturers can provide high assurance on center-line stocks, guidelines on the upper and lower ends of the range, and a shared commitment to help print service providers use best practices to optimize performance across the spectrum of substrates that their customers want and need.

  • InkJetGenie

    Mark and Elizabeth, thanks for your valued reponses. I have spent the last 3 years focusing on the proper ink to surface balance for color, density and ink thickness to eliminate the saturation, cockle and other issues associated with the papers which cause jams, misfeeds, and blade and roller wear in post processing units. I see parts of the workflow placing blame or fingerpointing. This is in no way helpful or pleasant for the customer who is trying to get production out the door. Inkjet has to be a "10,000 feet up" approach to figuring out what the right solution is for the customer. Lets keep communicating!

  • Elizabeth Gooding

    Hi Mary,
    Great question and my answer is "all of the above." The mills, OEMs and of course the end customer all have a vested interest in the outcome. There is also a clear benefit for them to work together. The mills need the OEMs to test the paper. The OEMs need the mills to create papers that help make their presses cost-effective for customers. Neither can pre-suppose what will be the best paper for a specific job and color tolerance so the customer needs to test as well. The customer also benefits from continuing to test new papers as they are developed since their are ongoing opportunities to improve quality and reduce cost after the OEM has "gone home." The more each stakeholder shares information with the other, the more the industry as a whole will benefit.