Thursday, September 29, 2011

Standardize your print process

A standardized print manufacturing process is critical for achieving effective press to proof color alignment, short press makereadies, and minimal wastage of time and materials.

The five basic steps are:

1. Choose the appropriate standard and/or specification target for the presswork.
Management's responsibility (with input from prepress, press room, and sales) is to establish what the targets and tolerances (dot gains, standards, specifications etc.) are for the presswork - because those are marketing/business decisions. Then management must provide the tools to allow prepress and pressroom to achieve those targets. That target then drives the complete print production process and determines the selection of all of the components (proofs, press calibration, inks, paper, etc.) needed to hit the target. Worldwide the most adopted standard for printing is ISO 12647-x. The various ISO 12647 standards provide specifications for data, proofs, inks, paper and press calibration. In North America GRACoL and SWOP specifications are largely based on ISO 12647-2 and ISO 12647-3 respectively.

2. Clearly communicate with print customers about requirements for data/file submission.
This includes items such as whether files should adhere to industry specifications such as SNAP or face rejection. It may include items such as whether native application files are acceptable or only PDFs, what resolution and color mode that images need to be, what minimum text size is acceptable, etc., etc.

3. Implementation of standardized proofing.
In-house proofing must be set up to the same standard and/or specification target for the presswork (i.e. ISO 12647-x, SWOP, etc.). If print customers will be providing proofs for the pressroom then the printer has to communicate that customer-submitted proofs must adhere to the appropriate standard. All proofs must include a color control strip so that they can be verified for conformance to the target standard/specification. There should be virtually no difference in appearance between a customer-supplied proof and one done by the printer in-house. It should also be made clear that the printer's in-house proof is the final proof.

4. Optimize prepress.
The responsibility of prepress is to align proofing to the target established by management as well as to maintain proofing within the tolerances established by management. Prepress must also output plates that enable the press operators to align their presswork to the proofs with the press performing in a repeatable, stable condition. Prepress should have well defined procedures for ensuring that platemaking and the resulting plates are consistent and within tolerance.

5. Optimize press performance.
The responsibility of the press operator(s) is to manage the press in such a way that the the films of the appropriate inks (as defined by the chosen specifications) are laid down in a manner that meets the targets and tolerances (hue, trapping, etc.) established by management and that the halftone dots on the plate are reproduced with fidelity on the various substrates (slur, doubling, etc.). Also, the press operator needs to make sure that all press-related consumables (fountain solution, inks, etc.) are within the tolerances needed to achieve the management defined targets for pressroom output.

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