QuadTech, Inc.

Grafiche Mercurio Improves Color Consistency with Plate Curve Adjustment Capability from QuadTech and Alwan Color Expertise

Grafiche Mercurio S.p.A., a commercial printer based in Angri, near Salerno, Italy, has achieved major improvements in color consistency in accordance with FOGRA PSO 12747-2 offset process color standards, after installing color control technology with automatic plate curve adjustment capability, co-developed by press controls supplier QuadTech and graphic software provider Alwan Color Expertise.

A leading supplier of offset printed advertising collateral, magazines, travel brochures and labels in southern Italy, Grafiche Mercurio faced a challenge in achieving quality consistency demanded by the customer.

Prof. Diodato Mercurio, joint owner of Grafiche Mercurio, comments: “Our former system could not manage the dot gain and color deviation on the fly. As a result, there was no constant reproduction of tonal curves. The color quality of reprinted jobs differed greatly, and frequent stoppages were needed, in order to achieve consistency.”

The company already enjoyed standardization in the sheet-fed department, thanks to Alwan’s CMYK Optimizer and PRINT Standardizer software packages. As a result, color was being measured inline, and corrections were made in real time, thus enabling all printing product to have its own FOGRA and ISO-certified quality reports. The company wanted to bring the same standards to the production on its 48-page, eight-color Goss Sunday 4000 web offset printing line. However, the existing color control device, with its RGB camera, only measured density and was neither able to provide spectral color control nor dot gain values. Color consistency and dot gain values had to be checked manually. This was a slow and unreliable process, in an environment where dot gain values vary sharply, due to changes in humidity, temperature, substrate quality or press mechanics. A complete overhaul of the video camera system and software was needed to allow constant control and instant remedial action.

"We gave our color consultants, ColorConsulting S.r.l., the task of searching for the optimum solution. We chose QuadTech's Color Control System with SpectralCam™ together with Alwan PRINT Standardizer X plate curve adjustment technology," said Prof. Mercurio.

ColorConsulting, based in Saronno, Italy, is a specialist consultancy that finds optimum color consistency solutions for printers in diverse graphics markets. Carlo Carnelli, general manager of ColorConsulting, comments: "The QuadTech solution consisted of one instrument (per surface) that was able to measure color as soon as it’s printed, and relay this to Alwan software in pre-press. Print deviations from standard conditions are automatically identified, and the required CTP curves are delivered for the press to print to ISO standard. We had no hesitation in advising Mercurio to choose this solution, because it is the only system on the market that provides data to Alwan software, and that offers a fully automated closed-loop between press and the pre-press."

“The ability to measure in-line is necessary in order to identify color variations and deviations on press. We now have the capability to control our printing process in a way that is vastly superior to the most advanced alternatives available on the market,” said Prof. Mercurio.

Alwan software relies on measurement data provided by QuadTech’s Color Control System with SpectralCam. Each ink key is managed and spectral values are sent online to the Alwan software. The spectral data is converted to L*a*b* and densitometric values including dot gain or tone value increase (TVI). Analysis by the Alwan software determines dot gain variation on press, and automatically generates updated dot gain compensation curves when necessary, after a job or a specified time period. The press can then match ISO standard or G7 specification. Alwan PRINT Standardizer monitors and stores data from any number of presses or papers per press. This information is easily retrieved, using parameters such as job, press, or paper name. The result is simpler, faster make-ready times, and greater stability from job to job. The combined solution can be easily integrated into any existing pre-press and pressroom systems.

Working with QuadTech’s Color Control System with SpectralCam, Alwan’s PRINT Standardizer software automatically compensates for dot gain deviations in virtually all printing situations, and also provides ISO 12647 and G7 compliance confirmation. The SpectralCam smart spectrodensitometer technology enables the system to quickly detect and analyze printed micro color bars at full press speeds. The system measures up to 12 patches in a single image capture and provides accurate ISO/ANSI Status T or E density, dot gain, trap and print contrast measurements. L*a*b* and ?E values are also calculated and reported on when using SpectralCam with the company’s Data Central Reporting option.

"The QuadTech Color Control System is able to supply spectral curves, in real time, every 10 nanometers. This is comparable with to most advanced hand-held instruments available on the market. We are now able to achieve prints that are identical to the proofs," said Prof. Mercurio.

The pre-press department uses Alwan PRINT Standardizer to update compensation curves, and to monitor all press variables remotely. New plates are always imaged with the correct compensation curves and are mounted on the press within a short time. Thanks to the automated curve update operation, Mercurio can adapt to a wide variety of paper substrates, from the problematic rough, light-weight supercalendered substrates to flat, coated papers, with the assurance that high quality and consistency of colors are maintained on press.

The company has now branded its closed-loop quality assurance solution 'Mercury 2012'. "This has been the most important technological investment made by our company in several years. We can now print to international standards and match customer proofs with perfection. We are confident that this solution will help us to grow our business in the Mediterranean, especially in the holiday catalogue market," added Prof. Mercurio.

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