By Mark Mazur, DuPont
Your customers demand perfection, speed, and an affordable cost, but achieving excellence in all three areas can overwhelm even the most experienced printer. How can your team deliver optimal quality printing services amidst the demands of a rapidly evolving marketplace? What does it actually take to produce a high quality print?
All good printers know that high quality prints aren’t just about “looking good”; they require a sophisticated and thorough review of the entire printing process. To achieve this level of production, there are three specific areas you should focus on: the original image, the tonal range, and the process itself.
How Can You Improve Quality in Your Printing Process?
1. Original Artwork: A print’s quality is only as good as its weakest input
A good print starts before you even touch the printing machine. For example, we’ve all taken good and bad photographs. We can print a bad photograph really well, but it still looks like a bad photograph. Ideal original artwork starts with a well balanced image, one that has an even tonal range, gradual changes in chroma and the right focal points. The general rule is to make sure the print has the brightest highlights and the darkest shadows.
2. Tonal Range: Everything hinges on the balance between the lightest elements and most chromatic colors you can print
Printers often talk about striving for higher “color density” to increase quality, but this is misleading because a higher density results in a darker color, not necessarily a more vivid color. Instead, printers should rely on a printing standard, such as the International Organization for Standardization’s ISO-12647. This standard defines the production of printed graphics based on precise specifications and tolerances. Using a standard will provide us with a target outcome and help us balance the three aspects of color: light/darkness, chroma, and hue.
3. Consistency: Developing a standard process for high quality prints is the key to long-term success
All printers should strive to deliver high quality prints time after time, but the biggest barriers to achieving this level of excellence are the variations between printing processes, colors, and tools. Selecting a printing standard is a great place to start, but a commitment to reviewing each print with a densitometer is ideal. This tool enables us to make sure each print meets that same level of quality. If errors continue to occur, the printing process can be further improved by implementing management strategies into the workflow. The Six Sigma Strategy, for instance, has been known to improve process quality by identifying and removing the causes of defects.
There are plenty of things to address when starting up a print run but addressing these three dimensions should lead you in developing the highest quality print to meet the needs of your customers. Keep quality in mind throughout your entire printing process from making sure you’re starting with a high quality original art, making sure your image is well balanced and making standards a priority in your work environment.
Mark R. Mazur received a BS in chemistry from the State University of New York at Albany in 1978, a Ph. D. in Physical Organic Chemistry from Yale University in 1982 and an MBA from Rutgers University in 1987. Mark has worked for DuPont for 29 years and has had a variety of assignments, including; product management, proofing, electroless plating, solid modeling and finance. In 1989 he joined the Cyrel® organization and is currently developing new flexographic printing plates. Mark is a frequent speaker at industry events, chaired the prepress subcommittee of FIRST and is a member of the FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards committee. In 2002 he received the FTA Presidents award, was co-chair of the 2008 FTA Forum in Dallas and was the 2009 Flexographic Technical Association Hall of Fame Inductee.