Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On-press stability and consistency

A printing press is a device for laying down a film of ink onto a substrate. Each component on each press unit, from ink ductor rollers to ink train oscillation moves or rotates with a repetitive frequency and this shows up as solid ink density variation. When the natural solid ink density variations through the press run are graphed, the result is sometimes referred to as the "heartbeat" of the press because of its resemblance to the rhythm of a human heartbeat.
The heartbeat of a press - the solid ink density variations measured over through the press run. Each of the 3 sections contains 100 press sheets from the beginning, middle, and end of the press run. Each "heartbeat" in each section is the solid ink density variation between 10 sheets. So, each of the three sections contains the SID measurements of 100 sheets.

The human heartbeat.

Every press design has its own "heartbeat" profile that represents its normal condition. What one looks for are abnormalities in the heartbeat profile itself as well as in comparison between different press units. Plotting the heartbeat of the press, just as it does with humans, can help diagnose problems in the system that may need correcting.

Solid ink densities varying naturally through the press run cause dot gains - tone reproduction - to also vary which in turn causes color shifts in the presswork. Below, courtesy of data provided by Alwan Print Standardizer, is a movie showing dot gain variation through the press run.
Click on the expand icon (the four arrows) to enlarge the video for greater clarity. Then click on the play arrow.

It's fair to say that a printing press in proper working condition is stable - but not consistent. And that fact applies equally to the presswork itself. Therefore, since variation is an integral characteristic of the printing process, the important thing is to establish, and communicate between buyer and print provider, what the target for presswork color should be, how it will be measured, and what range of variation is acceptable based on the needs of the specific job at hand.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Printing Standards and Specifications

Printing standards and their associated specifications bring an independent, authoritative, and concrete basis for file preparation, proofing, presswork, and output evaluation. They reduce proofing cycles and enable faster approval processes. They also help synchronize expectations between print buyer and print provider.

I'll begin with a few definitions.

A Standard according to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defines a standard as:
"A document established by consensus and approved by a recognized body that provides for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context."

A Specification is not a standard. Rather, it is a detailed description of the criteria for a piece of work. Specifications for printing can include characterization-data, ICC-profiles, PDF preflight criteria, calibration targets for the print process, etc.

A Method is usually defined as a way, technique, or process for doing something. It is a recipe.

To use a cooking analogy - a standard represents the desired final outcome, for example a cake.The specifications describe the ingredients needed to make the cake. The method describes the steps required to make the cake. There can be many different methods to achieve the desired standard based on the specifications.

The most important standards for print production are:

• ISO 12647
 which describes color for different types of presswork (sheetfed, heatset web, coldset web, etc.). Of all of the standards within the Graphic Arts, what is of most importance to most printers and print buyers are contained within the ISO 12647 family.
ISO 12647 is broken down as follows
ISO 12647-1 Parameters & Measurement methods
ISO 12647-2 Offset Lithographic processes
ISO 12647-3 Coldset Offset Lithography on Newsprint
ISO 12647-4 Publication Gravure
ISO 12647-5 Screen Printing
ISO 12647-6 Flexo Printing
ISO 12647-7 Proofing process from digital data

• ISO 2846-1
 which describes ink color and transparency.

• ISO 3664 defines lighting conditions for viewing color copies and their reproduction with either incident or transmitted light.

• ISO 15930-X 
(PDF/X) for data exchange in print production.

• ISO 15076 for the ICC color profile format.

• ISO 12640 for the data format from which ICC profiles are calculated.

The most important specifications for standardized print production are:

PSO Process Standard Offset printing developed by FOGRA / bvdm / ECI
This implementation of ISO 12647-2 is included with most digital proofing solutions used in Europe and is pre-configured with the UGRA FOGRA Mediawedge for verification.
Grey balance target values in PSO are done by comparing K- and CMY-patches with similar grey side by side. PSO does not contain procedures and tolerances for judging grey balance by measurement.
PSO also includes the possibility of a certification for pre-press and printing.

GRACoL/SWOP managed by IDEAlliance

These standards take their basis from ISO 12647-2 but place a higher importance on grey balance during calibration and the press run compared with the PSO. Most proofing solutions for the North American market include the needed setup to produce proofs that represent the GRACoL/SWOP target.

System Brunner

System Brunner is a standardization method for print production. It places a very strong emphasis on grey balance (in combination with TVI and Solids) for controlling and certifying the press run. System Brunner is included with some printing press manufacturer's press control solutions.
It can also be combined with PSO, SWOP, or GRACoL.

There are various ISO 12647 standards according to the main types of printing methods. Here I will try and cover the essentials of just one of these - ISO 12647-2 - as an example of the type of specifications that guide printers to achieving the standard. Note that specifications do change over time, so, although the information I present is correct (as far as I know) the actual current published standards should be your guide.ISO 12647-2 specifies a number of process parameters and their values to be applied when preparing color separations for four-color offset printing by one of the following methods: heat-set web, sheet-fed or continuous forms process printing, or proofing for one of these processes; or offset proofing for half-tone gravure. Note that the specifications are based on plates imaged in a film, not CtP, workflow.

ISO 12647-2 is
▪ directly applicable to proofing and printing processes that use color separation films as input
▪ directly applicable to proofing and printing from printing formes produced by filmless methods as long as direct analogies to film production systems are maintained
▪ applicable to proofing and printing with more than four process colors as long as direct analogies to four-color printing are maintained, such as for data and screening, for print substrates and printing parameters
▪ applicable by analogy to line screens and non-periodic (i.e. FM) screens.

ISO 12647-2 Type 1 for offset lithographic processes on gloss-coated paper specifies:
Ink: ISO 2846-1
Substrate: L* 95 a* 0 b* -2
Primary Colors (black backed): K: L* 16, a* 0, b* 0 , C: L* 54 a* -36, b* -49, M: L* 46, a* 72, b* -5, Y: L* 87, a* -6, b* 90
Secondary Colors (black backed): R (M+Y): L* 46, a* 67, b* 47 , G (C+Y): L* 49 a* -66, b* 24, B (C+M): L* 24, a* 16, b* -45, C+M+Y: L* 22, a* 0, b* 0
Solid ink densities: (informative information)*
Halftone screen: 133 lpi, 150 lpi, 175 lpi, 20 micron FM
Dot Gain/TVI: 12 -16% or 18 -22%
Grey Balance: 25%-19%-19%, 50%-40%-40%, 75%-64%- 64%
Neutral definition: substrate or equivalent tone of black
ISO profile: ISOcoated_v2_eci.icc
Characterization data: Fogra39L.txt

GRACoL 7 The General Requirements and Applications for Commercial Offset Lithography publication that is a common reference in North America and is based on ISO 12647-2 specifies:
Ink: ISO 2846-1
Substrate: ISO 12647-2
Primary Colors: ISO 12647-2*
Secondary Colors: ISO 12647-2*
Solid ink densities: Not specified
Halftone screen: 175 lpi AM round dot
Dot gain/TVI: Not specified - replaced by Neutral Print Density Curve values: @ 25% Grey: CMY .25/K .22, @ 50% Grey CMY .54/K .50, @ 75% Grey: CMY .90/K .90
Grey Balance (required): 50%-40%-40%
Neutral definition: a* 0 b* -2
ICC profile: GRACoL2006_Coated1v2.icc
Characterization data: GRACoL2006_Coated1

Some peculiarities of ISO 12647-2 and GRACoL 7

Where GRACol 7 differs from ISO 12647-2 (as per the implementation guidelines of PSO (Print Standard Offset-print)) is the method used for adjusting the mid-tones. The PSO advises adjusting the inking until the TVIs of CMY come close to their aims, while GRACol 7 would have the neutral densities of the CMY and the K grey patches brought close to the prescribed aim values regardless of the individual TVIs that result. In practice this means that each color will have a different TVI curve to achieve the neutral grey. GRACol 7 allows for deviation of primaries in order to obtain grey balance.

ISO 12647-2 includes the following chart of dot gain/TVI curves:There are a few peculiarities with this chart. First is that there is no definition in ISO 12647 of what printing condition the letters "A" through "H" represent.** ISO 12647 does not clearly state whether these dot gain curves are intended to be tone reproduction targets or aim points or simply what you get when you use linear film to make printing plates. It appears that, because the specifications state that "direct analogies to film production systems are maintained" the intent is to use these curves as the reproduction targets. To, me, the idea of having different tone reproduction curve targets for presswork for different processes or different halftone line screens is counterproductive to standardization.


Data set/s for profiling, separation, and proofing
ECI Profiles based on FOGRA data sets
FOGRA Data sets that closely comply with ISO 12647
IFRA Profiles based on ISO 12647-3 (Newsprint)
SNAP SNAP profile

Part 1 on this topic can be viewed by clicking HERE

*Standards documents include two broad classes of information: "normative" and "informative"
Normative elements are defined as "elements that describe the scope of the document, and which set out provisions". Provisions include requirements that convey criteria to be fulfilled if compliance with the document is to be claimed and from which no deviation is permitted.

Informative elements include supplemental information such as additional guidance, supplemental recommendations, tutorials, commentary as well as background, history, development, and relationship with other elements. Informative data is not a requirement for compliance with the standard.

**As near as I can guess (so I may be wrong), here are the printing conditions represented by the letters "A" through "H" in the ISO dot gain chart. The curves are organized from the bottom up. They sometimes do double duty.


A is the curve for CMY for Coated positive plate (ISO Coated v2 and FOGRA 27, FOGRA 39 etc)
B is the curve for K for same above condition

B is also curve for CMY for Web (paper type 3)
C is the curve for K for uncoated

C is also the curve for CMY for paper type 4/5 (uncoated and uncoated yellowish)
D is curve for K for same above condition

F is the CMYK curve for 20 micron non-periodic/FM screening

E, G and H are unknown (by me anyway). I believe that "H" has been dropped from the latest ISO 12647 document so these may no longer be in force.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs has died

To paraphrase a line from one of my favorite movies: "The light that shines twice as bright burns half as long and he has shone so very brightly."

He spoke about death in his inspirational talk during his Stanford University commencement speech in 2005 which can be seen by clicking HERE.
A link to my 25th anniversary with the MAC can be found HERE

Re:Print – Press Trouble Shooting

RE:Print is the first and only cartoon strip devoted to the printing industry. From time to time I post the strip on this blog. However, it is also published weekly on WhatTheyThink's PrintPlanet forum. You can access all the already published cartoons by clicking HERE