One finding of his industry research that mystifies the consultant: those web printers that have gone CTP yet still haven’t implemented ink fountain presetting. “The payback is clearly there,” he observes.
Web printers in this group offer one of two reasons for not making the move, according to Lamparter. They either don’t think the technology will work or think their old presses can’t be upgraded to support digital presetting of ink fountains. “Both are wrong,” the consultant adds.
“If a printer has gone CTP and is not doing ink fountain presetting, it’s leaving money on the table. Every analysis we’ve done says it pays out. The technology cuts makeready time, reduces paper waste and gives you truer color. It eliminates variation from one press operator to another,” he says.
Color variation clearly needs attention, Lamparter asserts, given the results of PrintCom’s ongoing study of the catalog sector—“Analysis of Catalog Production Trends—Paper, Selective Signature Assembly, Personalization/Ink-jet Imaging.”
“We gather a very large number of consumer and business-to-business catalogs from five or six collection points around the country. All of the copies are compared to assess the quality of the images. Two out of the five copies of a given catalog in a single mailing may be “radically” different from the other three. Radically different meaning you can order a product and get something you didn’t want because the color isn’t what it was represented to be in print,” Lamparter explains.
Color variation doesn’t have to occur in the products featured to have a negative impact, as things like shifts in background colors and flesh tones can give a lower quality appearance to the overall catalog, he points out. “There’s still work to be done in color control in terms of variability during the run,” the consultant advises.
“We’ve been doing this analysis for a number of years and, while the problem is not as severe as it was, the change is pretty marginal,” he continues. “Closed-loop color control should be on every web press printing a magazine or catalog. Obviously, that’s still not the case today.”