Signature Offset, a leading cold web printer specializing in newsprint and uncoated tabloids, journals, and magazines, has improved print quality, reduced dot gain and ink consumption, and gained a competitive advantage by implementing EskoArtwork's Concentric Screening technology.
"We're now seeing a steady increase in the number of companies successfully running Concentric Screening. While Concentric Screening was introduced nearly five years ago, other facets of technology had to catch up to it; for example improvements in offset plate and plate imaging technologies," observes Mark Samworth, color consultant at EskoArtwork. "We're also finding that companies like Signature Offset who have an in-depth understanding of curves and color management are getting the most out of Concentric Screening. They're saving money through reduced ink usage -- also an extraordinary environmental benefit by diminishing the most volatile component to the environment -- while offering higher quality work to their customers."
Established in 1970, Signature Offset operates out of eight manufacturing sites in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Mississippi and, most recently, Florida. In May 2008, the company began in earnest to revamp its workflow, switching to an EskoArtwork PDF-based production workflow and creating a centralized department in Colorado that handles prepress for all company locations. The workflow has allowed the company to save thousands in labor costs while also ensuring standardization across all of Signature Offset's facilities.
In October 2008, its new workflow in place and its quest for quality ongoing, Signature Offset installed EskoArtwork's Concentric Screening for its Goss Community press in the Phoenix, Arizona facility. "I saw an EskoArtwork presentation highlighting the technology," says Ty Tabat, Signature Offset's Digital Services Director. "We had looked at stochastic and other kinds of FM screening technology, but we weren't really satisfied with the overall quality of the dot, especially with halftones. The black-and-white halftones were really, really bad--they were very grainy."
The large gamut of Signature Offset customers, and all the different stocks it runs, would also make stochastic a bad fit, notes Tabat. "It would be difficult to squeeze all the different variables into FM screening," he says. "Running stochastic, we would end up putting more work on our pressroom."
Once Tabat learned about Concentric Screening--and the fact that the halftone dot behaves like a traditional AM dot on press, while still promising increased line screens and reduced dot gain--he was ready to move forward. Concentric Screening divides the halftone dot into thin concentric rings that limit film thickness on the plate, increasing color saturation and line screen capability while reducing ink consumption and variations during the printing process.
"We had already pushed the limit on the AM dot, and couldn't go any further," says Tabat. "We were using a 120-line screen and had tested a 133-line screen on newsprint, but couldn't get the necessary consistency, given the files we were getting from customers. We started talking with EskoArtwork--and they told us with Concentric Screening we could get line screens between 160 and 210. Being able to hit anything over 150 was pretty exciting. Once we saw what Concentric Screening could do, we were even more excited."
The Phoenix implementation was successful from day one. "Since the day we installed Concentric Screening for our Goss Community press we have never taken it off," says Tabat. "Our initial test showed there was a lot less graininess in halftones and four-color images than stochastic, plus it was more manageable on press."
In 2010, Concentric Screening was rolled out to all of Signature Offset's locations, and it is now on every Goss Community cold web press, and used on every job, except those run on a UV press in Colorado.
The technology has surpassed Tabat's expectations. "Being able to go to 175 lpi was a big surprise," says Tabat. " Someone could sell you that you can do 175, but you're thinking in the back of your head there's no way you could do more than 150. We call Concentric Screening high-definition printing. The same way high-definition television looks better than regular television--that's how we feel about Concentric Screening. Color looks brighter and photos can pop. The detail that we're getting out of four color and halftones is pretty remarkable."
Adds Tabat, "Where you used to see dots, you now see detail; you can actually see the tire rims in car dealership ads or shutters on the houses in real estate ads."
Quality up; ink use down
Ink usage is also on the decline--as much as 18%, notes Tabat. "The press operators are turning the ink down a lot," he explains. In fact, during the transition over to Concentric Screening, the biggest issue for the pressroom was the need to make ink adjustments, because the technology uses so much less ink. In general, ink setting is quicker, and it's easier to consistently hold the press during the entire run."
Initially, Concentric Screening did require Signature Offset to work with customers to maintain SNAP specifications and setting ink densities. "We found that good quality files looked fantastic using Concentric Screening, but the lower resolution files weren't getting the full benefit of the higher line screen," explains Tabat. "So we focused on fine tuning with our customers, showing them that with a little bit of adjustment their print quality could be fantastic."
Tabat continues, "One of our customers, who had been printing with us for years, needed a sample from a few years ago. He had the old sample and a newer one, and seeing them side-by-side, you could really see the difference. He told us, 'I thought you guys were doing a pretty good job before, but looking at old copies, I can't believe the difference.'"
Concentric Screening is a natural fit with Signature Offset' commitment to operating in a greener environment. "We have a huge green initiative at Signature," says Tabat. "We are very conscious about what we are putting into the environment, such as reducing our VOCs. The benefit of running a cold web over heatset is that you don't use an oven to dry your product. We have the environmental advantage, plus now we are using a higher line screen, which allows us to be more competitive with the heatset market. We are able to approach companies that were off-limits before. Yes, it is cold web, yes its uncoated, but it's a 175-line screen."
Concludes Tabat, "When I started out in this business printing a 65-line screen with cold web, the jump to 85 was big. A 100-line screen seemed unattainable. If you had told me 20 years ago I would be running 175 line on cold web newsprint, I would have thought you were crazy."
About EskoArtwork (www.esko.com)
EskoArtwork is a global supplier of integrated solutions for packaging, sign and display finishing, commercial printing and professional publishing. Its products and services help customers raise productivity, reduce time-to-market, lower costs and expand business.
EskoArtwork is the worldwide market leader with software for artwork creation, pre-production, automation, quality assurance and collaboration targeted at brand owners, retailers, designers and packaging manufacturers.
The CDI flexo computer-to-plate imagers, Kongsberg short-run converting and signage finishing systems complete the portfolio for the packaging, label, signage and display industries.
The company provides a range of workflow, automation and quality assurance solutions for the commercial printing and publishing market. For graphic designers and print production professionals there's also the Enfocus suite of PDF tools.
Facts & numbers
EskoArtwork employs around 1050 people worldwide. Its global sales and support organization covers Europe, the Americas and the Asia Pacific and is completed by a network of distribution partners in more than 45 countries.
EskoArtwork is headquartered in Gent, Belgium, and has R&D and manufacturing facilities in five European countries, the United States, China and India. The consolidated full year financials ended for 2010 with revenue of EUR 184.1 million.