5 Things to Know About – Handheld Color Measurement Instruments


A Series By All Printing Resources


1.) A handheld color measurement instrument is only as good as its last calibration/certification.

  • These instruments need to be calibrated regularly. A Spectrophotometer should be calibrated at least once a day to its White reference tile.
  • Most manufacturers recommend having your unit re-certified to factory settings once a year or every other year.

2.) Densitometers and Spectrophotometers read color differently.

  • Actually, Densitometers do not read color at all! They read the absence of reflected light back to the densitometer unit. That’s why you can read a Magenta and get a density of 1.25 and also read a Cyan and get a density of 1.25
  • Spectrophotometers read the actual wavelengths of light in nanometers. These measurements are known as Spectral Information or Spectral Data. From Spectral Data you can calculate every metric commonly used, such as CEILAB, Density, Dot Area, Delta E, etc…

3.) Set up your instruments to industry recommended settings such as FIRST 5.0:

  • Density – Status T
  • Density Absolute (including substrate)
  • Dot Area
  • Illuminate/Observer D50-2
  • Delta E (∆E) formula – dE 2000

4.) Take all measurements using a common backing material.

  • Usually White L* > 92, C* < 3

5.) Keep your instrument clean.

  • Handheld color measurement instruments are expensive and have many areas where dust and dirt can compromise the measurements
  • Find a clean common place to store the instrument and its calibration plaque

To read the original article, visit All Printing Resources

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Artwork Excellence as a Growth Strategy


By Phil Mueller, Vice President, Global Client Services, BLUE Software

What if your company could do what it does, only better? Do it faster. Do it right the first time, requiring less rework. Get more efficient. Improve quality. Help people make better decisions for your business.

The future of every consumer packaged goods company is dependent on its efforts to find new ways to increase revenue, reduce costs, and reduce the risk of catastrophic product recalls due to inaccurate labeling or outdated artwork. Labeling, artwork management, and packaging are not usually considered pathways to company growth. It’s easy to get distracted by short-term plans such as hiring more sales consultants and cutting budgets and neglect developing operational capabilities, even if the latter could produce a sustainable competitive advantage. Maybe you’re overseeing packaging and looking for a way to streamline the process of getting your product to market on schedule, or perhaps you’re in marketing, looking to increase product sales. Whatever your specific role, working with a software as a service platform has a myriad of advantages to improve your business and avoid potential catastrophes.

Companies turn to us because one of their biggest revenue issues is getting product to market on schedule. When they miss the launch schedule, the window of opportunity to make the biggest profits narrows, decreasing potential revenue. Making things even more difficult, leaders typically have no easy visibility into the status of all the critical tasks and approvals that lead up to printing labels and shipping product. They know they are late, but they don’t know how late or how to speed things up.

So, removing the obstacles to make more money is a major concern, but lowering the risk of recall and associated cost is paramount for companies. Packaging and labeling errors account for more than half of product recalls, even with quality departments, systems, and protocols already in place. People know the stakes are high, but errors are still made. What else can be done?

Let’s get back to doing what your company does, only better. We put together the Maturity Model for Artwork Excellence to help you assess where you are now, where you’d like to be, and give you an idea of the specific capabilities you can focus on developing in order to get there.


Courtesy of BLUE Software

Most companies are at an Artwork Management capability level we call “Repeatable” because they are continually executing labeling approvals that follow a GxP-compliant process. They document approvals in hard copy form with wet signatures at key points along their quality control path. They are using technology to document approvals and signatures or to store historical documents, but these tools are first-generation and are not integrated or coordinated. Usually no coherent strategy for global governance of these tools or the artwork change process is in place.

Improvement to a “Defined” capability level can be pursued by bringing the company’s executives to recognize the key benefits of artwork excellence so they are willing to invest in a solution. The company codifies their process and automates it using a digital workflow to control. At this point, companies have improved the quality of their output to significantly reduce re-work, improve cycle times, and meet schedule. This is when the focus on reducing costs and risks abates (it never goes away) and focus turns to gaining a more competitive position in the marketplace.

As Artwork Excellence more fully penetrates the organization it moves to the “Managed” maturity level. Here, leadership can articulate the value and ROI to the broader organization, which has now developed, implemented, and is leveraging its own best practices. Artwork approvers from many departments and even third parties can complete their reviews and approvals using mobile devices. Human error and required effort are reduced with automatic compare tools. Key performance indicators help to constantly improve processes and actively manage to schedule.

The vision is to achieve an “Optimized” maturity level, with a high level of adoption, live dashboard KPI displays, automated copy management and integration with other global software platforms. The historical durations and effort documented in the system is used to influence business decisions to increase value or further speed up processes. The company now has the ability to control distribution of 100% accurate labeling data to customers, partners, suppliers, and other key stakeholders.

The future of every company is dependent on its efforts to find new ways to increase revenue, reduce costs, and reduce the risk of catastrophic product recalls. Indeed, the same is true of every ambitious professional. You have the ability to make your company better by leading transformation, moving people to change for the better. It starts with the right partner.

To take advantage of planning and mindshare efficiencies, make sure the software partner you choose can help you move not only into a Defined state, but can help you all along the pathway to Managed and Optimized positions. Having to change partners mid-journey can delay your progress and significantly increase your artwork management costs.

Because packaging is increasingly a legal document, it’s not something a company can afford to get wrong. Where does your company stand on the Artwork Excellence Maturity Model? Where would you like to be? How will you advance?

About the Author:
Headshot Mueller, Phil
Phil Mueller is Vice President, Global Client Services at BLUE Software, where he oversees all enterprise level implementations of BLUETM brand lifecycle management software.

In his twelfth year with the company, Phil is a strategic leader in developing software that meets real market needs and can be successfully implemented following a quality-driven process for Fortune 500 Consumer Goods, Pharmaceutical and Retail companies. Visit bluesoftware.com for more information. Connect with Phil on LinkedIn.

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Corrugated for Retail-Ready Packaging & the Technical Problems that may Arise when Flexo Printing



By Tom Kerchiss, RK Print Coat Instruments Ltd


The Retail-Ready packaging (RRP) concept has boosted the demand for corrugated/micro flute systems; a situation that is set to continue as major retail chains and superstores not only in North America, Europe and Australasia but also in the Far East adopt RRP with enthusiasm.

Retail Ready Packaging makes economic sense for high volume retailers, especially at a time when many of the major superstore groups have seen forecasted profits fail to materialise and shareholders and city investors become more insistent that economies are put in place and operational efficiencies are made. RRP aims to reduce product handling, increase speed of replenishment, reduce packaging material and costs and improve shelf display. RRP and high quality printing should go hand in hand as the concept is designed to reinforce product branding throughout the supply chain. Over 80 per cent of the product should be visible on the shelf and primary consumer information, which normally goes un-noticed unless the product is picked up and handled, is made highly visible on the retail ready tray.

Corrugated material and folding carton are in many respects ideal display and packaging mediums for RRP. If we just consider corrugated for the moment it combines both strength and rigidity with the flexibility to absorb shocks, corrugated board also makes good use of minimal material. There is hardly any other material that this author is aware of that gives such rigidity using so little material. These interesting properties are obtained by gluing various layers (at its basic), an undulating middle layer (flute) with plain layers on either side: the result of which is a light and rigid framework, the principle of which has been adopted by the aero industry in wing construction and in civil engineering in bridge construction.

In many instances today – Retail Ready Packaging arguably being one of them, the consumer will not always even be aware they are encountering a corrugated medium. The reason being that the characteristics of the material and its presentation have changed so much in order to meet not only the self- service requirements of the modern retail environment, but also the requirements of brand owners. In this case the brand owner and marketing organisation may be seeking to either promote established premium products that need a high volume of packaging featuring ultra high quality printing to support the brand and attract attention, or perhaps newer or promotional products that will be shipped in low volumes, packed in high quality printed boxes with the shelf appeal to generate demand. Even low cost commodity style products that need high volume cost effective boxes with fewer colours and less elaborate branding benefit from the RRP approach, bottled sparkling/natural and flavored waters serve as an example.

In corrugated applications the substrate plays a major role in dictating how the ink is going to appear on the finished job. Much of corrugated board is printed flexo, either directly onto finished board or as is most often the case when presentation is important via pre-printing on the outer layer or liner or by laminating. Defects that can occur during the corrugating process may impact on print quality and on production rates. These defects are associated with flute integrity, caliper, wash-boarding and warped board. Ink formulation, photopolymer plate selection, anilox and inking systems must be chosen or formulated with care if print quality and workflow consistency is to be maintained.

The technique of pre-printed liner has revolutionized decorative possibilities. It is however expensive, to make it economical pre-print tends to be considered for longer runs and where a prestigious impact needs to be considered. Another option is to laminate a pre-printed liner, giving the best results since printing can be undertaken on the highest-grade paper. Again an expensive option but recommended where high value consumer goods are being sold. In a RRP situation pre-printed liner and laminated would tend to be confined perhaps to big-ticket gift items, electrical and home/garden furniture goods.

Although the introduction of pre-printed liner and laminated materials as well as an increasing number of engineered flutes have undoubtedly changed printing board, a degree of watchfulness and care may be necessary when for instance flexo printing some jobs as the medium can be challenging.

The substrate can play a major role in dictating how the ink is going to appear on the finished job. Absorption and surface tension are the main factors that influence print density as well as drying, trapping and dot gain. It is also important when providing a customer with s colour match that the exact same substrate is the one that is finally to be used.

Printing one colour on Kraft, mottled or even clay-coated sheets that seem to have the same surface appearance will yield a wide range of shades even from the same colour. The reason for this is that the sheets with a high level of absorption produce a weaker colour due to the ink being absorbed into the substrate. Conversely those sheets with lower absorption properties will display stronger colours; if clay coated sheets are used the ink may not even penetrate the substrate surface. Surface tension plays a role in determining colour strength.

If the situation arises whereby it is necessary to print on clay-coated board, insufficient coverage or poor trapping may well occur together with poor adhesion due to the components of the ink having a combined surface tension that is higher than that of the substrate. This produces a cohesive effect, causing inks to shy away from some areas of the substrate surface and produce an uneven appearance to the final print. Inks with a higher level of polymeric additives and incorporating a measured amount of water can be used to good effect. In this instance the water is added at the press side to reduce viscosity so that faster drying and faster press speeds can be obtained. Care must be taken as too much water causes an imbalance in the ink, reducing rub resistance and gloss. A diluting vehicle will maintain ink balance.

The rub resistance that printed ink exhibits in some instances may well have to be modified. For example: Kraft, mottled and bleach board tends to show more rub resistance than a clay -coated board. Rub resistance is adjusted with waxes and specific polymers and a sample preparation or colour communication device such as the FlexiProof is ideal for monitoring results as well as for product development including inks and substrate. The FkexiProof 100 or variants FlexiProof UV and FlexiProof UV LED are also suitable for conducting tests associated with rub, wear resistance, scratch resistance, gloss and other desired properties.

On a clay coated board the ink supplier needs to be aware if the board is going to be overprinted with a varnish. Normally if complex graphic printing is undertaken on a clay-coated medium the varnish is added for protective barrier purposes and for gloss. It would be counter-productive to add a wax additive as this would not only reduce the gloss but cause problems with a solid over solid trapping.

The pH of inks used for graphic printing on clay-coated board is generally higher than for Kraft board. The reason for this is that the inks tend to incorporate more in the way of polymer and the inks contain a balanced level of water. The higher pH helps stabilise the ink and helps make it stay open longer, slowing the drying of the ink on the printing die. A lower pH range is advisable for Kraft type boards because these are generally printed at faster speeds and quick drying is necessary.

Adjustment of pH is usually done with amines or ammonia with the former being the most stable and the latter not being recommended because of potential health risks. The one constant is that the ink pH must be checked from time to time to prevent changes that may arise due to evaporation. A pH stable ink is the best option requiring much less in the way of attention.

For more information, visit  RK Print at www.rkprint.com

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Keeping It Real: The Package is Your Front-Line Defense Against Counterfeiting

Saueressig Logo



by Ludger Böing & Volker Hildering, Saueressig GmbH + Co. KG


How much money and prestige does your brand lose to counterfeiting? Do you even know?

Here’s the thing: No one really knows. That’s the nature of counterfeiting. It’s a black market, and we can only know for certain the value of counterfeit products that are actually intercepted. What fraction of the total counterfeit market do those known examples represent? All we can do is make educated guesses.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be trying to understand the scope of the problem. In fact, you should be doing everything you can to discover as much as you can about how your products are being counterfeited, where the fakes are coming from, where they’re going, and how much it’s costing you in money and brand equity – all with a view to stopping it.


Many boxes on a store shelf, one with the word Success symbolizing a quick solution to a problem and instant victory over the competition

Many boxes on a store shelf, one with the word Success symbolizing a quick solution to a problem and instant victory over the competition

The problem is much bigger than most people imagine.

Among counterfeit products, pharmaceutical and personal care products have been the most widely studied, because they have such high profit margins and can be so damaging to the wellbeing of consumers and to the reputation of legitimate manufacturers. According to one estimate, “Counterfeit drugs provide approximately $75 billion in revenue annually to illegal operators and have caused more than 100,000 deaths worldwide.”1

Other commonly counterfeited products that can pose a serious hazard include baby formula, toys, car and airplane parts, and electronics. And, of course, any counterfeited product can do substantial economic damage. Whether it’s cigarettes, packaged foods and beverages, clothing, jewelry, purses or media, all counterfeits detract from the profitability of legitimate manufacturers, undermine consumer confidence, harm governments through reduced tax and duty collections, and support a criminal underground.

Counterfeit products originate in all countries, from developing countries to ultra-modern industrialized countries with modern manufacturing capabilities. Distribution is worldwide, and legitimate retailers are often victims. Online retailing, in particular, is susceptible as distance selling and third-party fulfillment make it easy to represent the genuine product on a website, collect payment electronically and deliver a fake.

Of course, legitimate retailers want to do everything they
can to keep counterfeit products off their physical and digital shelves, but the anti-counterfeiting tools at their disposal are limited. Brands, in their own self-interest, need to do everything they can to help prevent fake products from reaching the retailer in the first place, and provide tools
to help retailers recognize counterfeits that do show up 
at the loading dock.

Several packaging-based methods have been used for authenticating products, with varying degrees of cost, availability and success.

For example, identifying barcodes are inexpensive to print on packages, but also very easy for a counterfeiter to reproduce. Holograms and watermarks are more difficult, but, with the incentive of millions of dollars in fraudulent sales, criminals have made the investments necessary to successfully fake these methods. Color-shifting inks are extremely difficult to reproduce – which is why they’re increasingly being used in currency – but they’re also virtually unavailable to manufacturers of packaged goods.

The challenge for brands is to adopt anti-counterfeiting measures that are extremely difficult to detect or reproduce, easy for supply-chain and retail partners to validate, and also affordable to implement either alone or in combination.

Because secure packaging is an important part of our business, we have a portfolio of security technologies and customer- specific techniques that we cannot talk about publicly. In fact, our security operations are isolated from the rest of our printing and converting business, with physical and informational access only possible by our security specialists with the right credentials and a need to know. Nothing is more crucial to the anti-counterfeiting project than scrupulous security hygiene.

However, there are two innovative techniques we can talk about that illustrate the characteristics brands should be looking for in a packaging security system. These techniques are available to any brand, relatively easy and affordable to implement, and highly secure.

One technique involves micro-text printing. An extremely fine- resolution lasing method is used to create text on a gravure cylinder that’s too small for the unaided eye to detect and can easily be hidden within the overall package design.

For example, a single character of fine print on the package that’s already difficult to read at 1mm high might reveal, under microscopic examination, that it’s actually composed of dozens of smaller letters on the order of tens of microns high. Microscopic line images are also possible, and can be hidden within larger text or another image.

These features can be placed anywhere on the package, and the micro-text can be changed and/or moved to a different location in subsequent printings. To copy the micro-text, counterfeiters would have to know that it exists and where
to look for it. Plus, they would need access to extremely sophisticated, proprietary pico-laser engraving equipment that’s simply not available on the market and impossible for a counterfeiter to engineer independently.

However, the specialized gravure cylinder can be incorporated cost-effectively into a normal printing line, and the micro-text can easily be verified by anyone who knows where to look with suitable magnifying equipment.

Another approach is to include a hidden image within a design element. An image that is completely invisible to the naked eye can be included within the package design, and people who need to verify the authenticity of the product can be supplied with a special decoder. Typically about the size of a credit card, this semi-transparent decoder is embossed with a special line structure designed to reveal the hidden image. The user simply places the decoder over the package to reveal the image.

The hidden image can be created as part of the normal printing process, and the decoder is simple and affordable for a security provider to produce. But the combination provides very strong security.

The image is not visible to the naked eye, and, similar to two-factor authentication, a counterfeiter would need to know the image exists in the first place and also have access to the correct decoder in order to discover what it is. Even with that knowledge, the hidden image is nearly impossible to scan at the required resolution and essentially impossible to reproduce with the line structures and detail that would be required to “fool” the decoder.

As difficult as the system is to copy, however, product authentication couldn’t be easier: Just place the decoder over the package and check for the hidden image. Simple validation is essential for any package security system to be fully effective.

Micro-text and hidden images are two examples of effective and affordable security, but your anti-counterfeiting efforts shouldn’t begin and end with package authentication. As the International Trademark Association recommends:

Brand owners can take legal, technological, and business steps to prevent or at least minimize counterfeiting. This includes not only registering your trademarks in jurisdictions where you sell product, but also in jurisdictions where your products are manufactured; recording your trademarks with customs offices; maintaining watching services; creating anti-counterfeiting positions within your company; and monitoring online websites closely …

And if you should discover a counterfeiting problem:

Consult with counsel regarding strategies to confront
the issue. Depending upon the territory involved, you
may be able to conduct raids in collaboration with local authorities, seize fake products or domain names (that direct consumers to offending websites), work with customs agents to prevent import or export of the counterfeit goods, or file civil and/or criminal actions against the perpetrator.2

It’s all good advice, and it all ultimately depends on the ability to identify counterfeits in the marketplace. Though the search for fakes may range far and wide, it begins with securing the product package. ⬢

Ludger Böing (above) and Volker Hildering (below)

Ludger Böing (above) and Volker Hildering (below)

About the Authors

Ludger Böing, Sales and Customer Service Packaging – Special Applications, and Volker Hildering, Manager Sales and Customer Service Packaging – Special Applications, are security and microprint technologies as anti-counterfeiting measures experts with the Security department at Saueressig GmbH + Co. KG. Saueressig is part of SGK, a Division of Matthews International Corporation. http://saueressig.com/en/



  1. “The Health and Economic Effects of Counterfeit Drugs,” American Health & Drug Benefits, June 2014.
  2. “Protecting a Trademark: Counterfeiting,” International Trademark Association, 2015, www.inta.org/TrademarkBasics/FactSheets/Pages/Counterfeiting.aspx

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Using the Brand Packaging Restage to Fend Off the M&A Beast


by Bruce Levinson, VP Client Engagement, SGK

CPG companies have it tough these days. While they have been wrestling with brand shifting, changing demographics, new media and technology, mining terabytes of big data, and navigating an emerging retail scene, a new challenge has formed. That is the specter of being acquired by a competitor or by private equity. The near-zero Federal Funds Rate not only enables companies to invest in their own growth, it also makes it much easier for companies to buy scale through acquisition. Surely this is a huge boon for some. But many CPGs prefer to go it alone rather than see their brands taken over and possibly sold off for parts. To remain independent enterprises, CPGs must perform in the short term, getting the most value possible out of their brands, but in a way that is sustainable and fits with the equity.

This dynamic is bringing new relevance and urgency to the brand packaging restage. As the majority of the largest CPG brands have lost market share in the past year, there is a critical need for a fresh approach. Sometimes considered a “half measure”, the brand restage hasn’t always been thought of with the same degree of seriousness or appeal as, say, launching an all-new brand or product. But change is in the air because breakthrough brand packaging design offers CPGs an attractive mix of benefits today if done in a thoughtful way.

Refreshed packaging doesn’t rely on inventing a magic molecule or investing in any other product formulation change. The packaging itself brings “news” to the shelf without necessarily incurring slotting fees or negotiating incremental space at retail. Brand packaging is an “always on” communication channel to reinforce positioning or launch a new claim; consumer permission is not needed to show it. Perhaps the single most critical opportunity with packaging, however, is to bring a meaningful new reason to select your brand and to select it over and over again.

Functional or structural packaging innovation can drive ease of use, facilitate new usage occasions, support sustainability, and bring efficiencies to the supply chain (including yours and that of your retail customers.) Taking the time to develop a thoughtful, comprehensive creative brief is key. Work with your agencies to consider the role of packaging in your consumers’ life, from quickly identifying the brand to selecting it on the physical or virtual shelf, to how they use and ultimately discard the packaging. Work across categories to find inspiration in, say, specialty food while working on personal care products. Taking this example further, you must also consider if the transparency trend in food packaging should translate to other categories or is even relevant to your brand’s equity.

In doing so, brands may find new routes to brand relevance that aren’t long-shot new product innovations (most of which fail, remember), but are thoughtful, tangible packaging and design solutions that can be achieved in much less time. Restaging the brand portfolio can also serve as a signal to the outside world, demonstrating that even the stodgiest of brands is being cared for, managed actively not passively, no matter if you are trying to attract or repel potential M&A suitors.

Bruce_Levinson_2011About the Author:
Bruce Levinson is Vice President, Client Engagement at SGK, a leading global brand development, activation and deployment provider that drives brand performance.
Bruce is a passionate architect of brand strategy and is highly experienced in translating consumer insights and client needs. His experience helps clients meet market and regulatory demands while driving brand initiatives domestically and internationally. His previous positions include director-level marketing roles at Unilever in the US and UK, and as an advertising account executive. http://www.sgkinc.com

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Top Ten Trends You’ll See at IDTechEx Show! USA 2015


The following is an article by Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEx, the global research and business intelligence firm that created the IDTechEx Show! USA 2015, which will be held Nov. 18―19, in Santa, Clara, California.

Today’s emerging technologies are varied, vast – and moving at the blink of an eye. Here are the top 10 key trends we’ll see at the show that are changing the way the world lives, works and plays.

Wearable Technology Moves Beyond Fashionable

Wearable technology is a strong driver for the development of stretchable electronics, enabling devices that can conform and move with the human body ― rather than the rigid blocks of electronics that constrict human motion we saw in early stages. Not only are there new innovations in materials, adhesives and component connections, key components like sensors, batteries and transistors are themselves now flexible. Through the use of case studies and key analyses, presenting companies will discuss implementation of these emerging technologies in new products, such as the Baby MIMO electronic monitoring vest enabled by stretchable ink from EMS.

Printed Electronics: From Component Supply to Innovative Product Design

Over the last 18 months, many players in the printed electronics industry have been moving from offering a component to making complete products, resulting in the creation of new market spaces with new products not previously feasible. Many of these products – as well as new ones to be announced – will be demonstrated at the show, including the TempTraq smart band aid from BlueSpark; the golf club sensor labels from Enfucell; smart packaging from Thin Film Electronics; and pens that write with conductive ink to produce circuits from Electroninks. Attendees will also see the host of the integration tools that enable these new products.

Illuminating Flexible Displays and Lighting

OLED and ― even now LCD ― displays are increasingly becoming flexible with the use of plastic substrates. In fact, last July LG Display announced that it will invest approximately $900 million in a flexible OLED display manufacturing line in Korea. These flexible displays call for new materials and films, from flexible barrier materials to flexible backplanes; and players in this arena are also prioritizing consumer electronics and automotive applications. The IDTechEx Show! features sessions on displays, lighting and related components, such as barrier films and flexible transparent conductive films.

Structural Electronics Take Flight

Structural electronics are replacing the old components-in-a-box approach with smart materials, such as load―bearing parts, smart skin and e-textiles. For example, a recent IDTechEx interview with one of the largest car Japanese companies revealed that their experimental 3D printing of ultra-lightweight car seats, based on bird bone structure, will now become 3D-PE with electrics and electronics built into the seat as it is grown. Meanwhile, teams in Australia, the UK and the U.S. will be demonstrating supercapacitor car bodies using in-mold electronics. A key session at the show will discuss how these structural electronics are taking flight ― from printed functional systems on aircraft to in-mold electronics.

3D Printed Electronics Expand

3D printing is now being combined with printed electronics, which has led to the development of exciting new products. For instance, 3D printers have developed metals which can be 3D printed to create metal objects from jewelry to engine parts. This emerging technology will be the focus of a session about metal materials for 3D printing; and printing metallic materials with corresponding functional inks, such as printing dielectrics onto 3D surfaces to create 3D electronics, is also covered in a session on 3D printed electronics.

Thin is In With Sensors

Large investments have been made to enable flexible, thin sensors rather than expand the market of rigid sensors ― a trend that can be seen in the actions of companies like ISORG, which has raised $22 million to build a facility to make optical sensors on plastic; and by the U.S. Dept. of Defense’s investment of $75 million in a new manufacturing innovation institute for flexible and hybrid electronics. (Both organizations are presenting at the show.) We’ll also see improvements and new form factors with conventional sensors driven by the ongoing needs of wearable technology, the automotive industry, the Internet of Things and built structures. These sensor advances are covered in presentations by some of today’s most dynamic organizations, including Intel, InvenSense, Honeywell and TE Connectivity, which will highlight key opportunities as we progress to the trillion sensor network.

Energy Harvesting Reaches a Higher Power

Energy harvesters started out as smaller devices used to power IoT sensor nodes, switches and other small devices, but this capability has rapidly grown to now include thermoelectrics providing energy input for cars; and companies such as Google embracing airborne wind energy (AWE); and others in use now for regenerative breaking.  At the show, we’ll see how today’s harvesters can turn motion in a 3D direction into a single directional motion for harvesting energy, in addition to form factors ranging from thin piezoelectric films to large, high-power output devices.

Thin, Flexible Batteries:  Not Your Father’s Bunny

The world’s largest consumer electronics companies, such as Apple, LG and Samsung, have moved into the development of flexible battery technology ― due in a large part to the wearable technology market, which will help drive the flexible battery market from U.S. $ 6.9 million in 2015 to more than U.S $400 million in 2025, according to IDTechEx Research. Key presentations at the show will illustrate how this incredible market will unfold.

The Motion of the Ocean: Energy Independent Vehicles

Energy Independent Electric Vehicles (EIVs) exist on and under water, as airships and planes and as on―road and off―road vehicles ― typically relying on sunshine sometimes with other forms of energy harvesting as well, including waves and wind―making electricity to power their motors. But mostly they rely on flexible photovoltaics. At the show, key presentations will focus on increasingly multiple, on―board energy harvesting that will further boost the already impressive speed, payloads and duty cycles.

You Can See Clearly Now:  Smart Eyewear Enabling VR and AR

More organizations are developing smart glasses and contact lenses than ever before. Fueled by new component form factors and lower power functionality, they seek to address the huge virtual reality and augmented reality opportunities ripe for the taking. At the IDTechEx show!, you’ll be able to try out the latest innovations for yourself.

The eight co-located conferences of the IDTechEx Show! USA 2015 will be held at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Nov. 18-19. For more information, visit www.IDTechEx.com.

Established in 1999, IDTechEx provides independent market research, business intelligence and events on emerging technology to clients in more than 80 countries. IDTechEx is headquartered in Cambridge UK. The IDTechEx Show USA! is part of a global series of events from IDTechEx. The next show is slated for Berlin, Germany in 2016.

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Three Secrets to Prolonging Anilox Performance


Even the highest quality anilox rolls need proper care in order to maintain their performance.  And because the anilox is considered by many to be the heart of any flexo press, the importance of regular cleaning and maintenance cannot be overstated.  The anilox is a precision instrument that drives the efficiency and consistency of your printing process.  Take care of your anilox and they will take care of you.

Here are three ways you can ensure maximum endurance and performance from your anilox.

Proper care begins when the anilox arrives

Inspect any new roll that enters your facility immediately.  Check to make sure the crate is undamaged.  Remove the roll from the crate and inspect it thoroughly.  Be sure to identify any dings, dents or scratches on the roll.  “One of the biggest mistakes a printer can make is simply adding an uninspected roll to inventory, particularly if it arrived in a damaged crate.” says Doug Jones, Vice President of Marketing at Apex International, the world’s leading supplier of anilox and meter technology.  “By identifying issues early, anilox companies are often able to help correct the issue before it disrupts print production.”

Use care while installing the anilox into your press

Remember that anilox rolls are precision instruments and must be handled with care.  Never leave an anilox roll resting on its engraved surface as doing so could break down cell walls and cause scoring or streaking.  Instead, always support the anilox by its journals.  While installing, cover the body of the anilox with a wrap or covering to protect it from impact damage.  It is also important to remember that ceramic, while durable, is not impact resistant and can chip.  Chipped ceramic on the ends of an anilox can lead to ink and solvent leaching which ultimately reduces the life expectancy of the anilox.

Use and Storage

Anilox rolls are not a “set it and forget it” component.  Once the anilox is installed, never run the anilox dry with the ink chamber against the roll.  Doing so can cause excessive doctor blade wear and potentially score the anilox.  Keep the roll running while ink is in the chamber to prevent standing ink from drying in the anilox cells.  If plugging does occur, never use tools to try and removed dried ink.  Instead, follow a proper cleaning schedule that includes chemical cleaners with a pH between 6.5 and 10.5.  Never use chlorine, ammonia or any cleaning solution that is 100% acidic as these will corrode your anilox.  Finally, store the anilox either covered on a rack (to prevent contaminants such as dust from entering cells) or in its original crate, taking care that the surface is 100% clean and dry prior to storage.

Following these simple guidelines can help prolong the life of your anilox roll, which can easily exceed 2 years depending upon care and environmental variables such as humidity.

About Apex
Apex International, headquartered in Hapert, The Netherlands, is the leading manufacturer of anilox and metering roll solutions in the world. The Company employs approximately 300 people and serves over 5,000 active customers in all markets (corrugated, narrow-web, wide-web, offset and coating applications) on a global scale.  Apex operates five production facilities and seven sales offices worldwide, providing a local presence for customers and a global network to serve multi-location businesses and multi-national corporations. www.apex-groupofcompanies.com

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Filed under Anilox Rolls, Printing

5 Tips to Help You Match the Right Agency with the Right Creative Job



By Carrie Golvash, Senior Continuous Improvement Consultant, SGK

Organizations both large and small are continuously challenged to make the most of their marketing dollars – do more with less and faster than before. Today’s marketers are tasked with generating demand for their brands, products and services and their marketing budgets are being scrutinized and squeezed like never before. Agency spend always ranks high within these tight budgets. Improving the agency selection process, which is usually missing or outdated, can yield great returns for organizations.

Too often, organizations will centralize work with one agency or use a partner based on historical precedence instead of their ability to best meet the strategic objectives. This may not be a conscious decision, since organizations often struggle to identify the level of strategic thinking needed to meet their creative objectives. Matching the right agency with the right creative job is a tougher task than most imagine. And the wrong choice leads to rework, spending inefficiencies and poor resource utilization.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Common pitfalls can be avoided by adding strategy, structure and rigor to the agency selection process. But first, you need to identify the current state of your agency selection process: are you giving all of your work to one agency, regardless of job type? Selecting an agency based on an emotional relationship or historical precedent? Are you dependent on your agency for brand knowledge? Is speed the biggest driver of selection? Identifying your situation can help you correct the course, and it’s worth the effort. Marrying the right agency to the right creative assignment prompts smarter budget decisions and leads to best in-class market executions.

Organizations can fall into several traps that break or eschew a strong agency selection process. Sometimes there is a peanut butter approach, spreading all creative design assignments to one agency, from the most strategic brand campaigns to simple packaging edits. This approach is driven by a universal struggle for marketers to do more with less, often looking for efficiencies within their agency spend. However, while marketers may think that they are saving money by bundling all of their creative work to one agency, in reality very few agencies are suited to meet all of a client’s creative demands.

Organizations have diverse needs, however agency capabilities can be more singular. In a typical calendar year, marketing initiatives can include new product introductions, redesigns, packaging maintenance, package claims, marketing campaigns and promotional or limited-time-offer packaging. Larger initiatives are typically planned annually and have strong visibility throughout the organization; these can be appropriately sourced to your agency of record. Small, one-time, unplanned initiatives challenge this approach, since often this type of work may not be in the agency’s wheelhouse. For example, how often have you designated quick turnaround work to your strategic agency only to have the assignment languish from timing, cost and deliverable negotiations? Too often.

Another driver of this one size fits all approach is speed. You want a creative project done quickly, so you reach out to your trusted strategic agency. While they certainly have the requisite brand knowledge, quick, reactive projects may conflict with their established processes and conventions, making them unable to meet immediate deadlines and fulfill client objectives. Ultimately, you will end up paying additional fees for increased rounds of revisions on a low-level design initiative.

An analysis of hourly pricing for a low-level creative assignment compared two respected agencies, one strategic and the other more equipped for fast-turn work; the latter could save the client 37%[1] of the total cost of project execution.

On the flip side, your single-sourced agencies might be better equipped for fast-turn production than solving for big branding issues. In this case, it’s large strategic initiatives that end up going through multiple rounds of revisions, either because the work lacks strong brand strategy or the creative is off brand strategy and does not deliver against the brand promise. After several rounds of revisions, you may then decide to do an agency search to find another partner with more strategic capabilities. Alternately, you could end up settling for subpar creative, leaving behind a huge opportunity for brand development and business improvement.

Other times, organizations select an agency the not because of budget or speed but rather a lack of brand knowledge and confidence. Within many organizations, it’s actually the agency that is the brand steward. They have more tribal brand knowledge than the marketing team, either due to length of brand service or the natural attrition and rotation of marketers. Most marketing cultures build an up-and-out mentality, so often the agencies end up on-boarding and training new marketers on brand equities and history. Their brand knowledge becomes invaluable, allowing them to ramp-up quickly to assignments. However, the tradeoff is increased creative fees for their strategic services.

Relationships and historical precedence can also influence suboptimal agency selection. Within most organizations, marketing is the owner of the brand equity, business results, and execution of marketing plans. If there are no tools in place like an agency roster or clear agency roles and responsibilities, work can quickly be awarded based on a marketer’s prior working relationships. This tends to foster a “wild, wild west” mentality to agency management. The number of agencies can quickly multiply, creating little rhyme or reason to agency pricing or project fees.

All of these traps involve insufficient rigor and structure. To correct the course, the most effective marketing organizations deploy these practices to add in process and visibility to agency selection.

1) Classify Creative by Levels of Required Strategic Thinking. Create classifications that link design assignments with the level of strategic thinking. Many organizations use a grading scale (A, B, or C) for the level of design work. The highest grade requires highest level of strategic thinking.  An example would be new-to-the-world product innovations. Typically, there is a high level of organizational investment and financial investment in this type of project. Classifying this assignment as an “A” project ensures that the organization is investing the right level of dollars to guarante that consumers understand the product benefits and that the design fits into the overall brand architecture.

For the most part, it is easy to discern the most strategic “A” projects. Where this matrix comes in handy is when you begin to designate your design assignment as B or C projects. Pushing design work down the matrix can help expedite and save money on design adaptations or line extensions. Using this kind of framework for creative assignment has demonstrated up to 37% savings* within marketing budgets from improved grading of design initiatives.

2) Identify Agency Core Capabilities. After determining the level of strategy needed, it is very important to understand your agencies’ capabilities. This goes beyond just working with your account manager, you should know or at least meet or understand who is the creative team. This means asking how the agency has grown or expanded their capabilities over the years? What are their roots? For example, did they start as an industrial design agency and are now expanding into graphic design? This investigation helps reveal their core expertise.

Beyond agency history, know the creative team who will be working on your account, including their background and other accounts they support. Evaluate the agency’s body of work, understanding key contributions they make to the creative assignment. For example, did they simply take the advertising concept and adapt it to the package or FSI execution, or did they generate the strategy and creative idea?

After you feel confidently informed about the agency’s history and core competencies, then build and create the organization’s agency roster. Make it clear to the organization who should be engaged for different creative assignments.

3) Categorize Brands by Size and Scale. The size and scale of the brand can determine the level of creative and strategic support. How does that translate to creative assignments? Start to think about what common traits or characteristics these brands share. Can you begin to bundle brands that share similar insights or the same consumer landscape or the same shelf? Then assess the level of financial support the organization can offer – are these brands growing or are they struggling and need to refresh the brand’s identity? Does the brand warrant heavy or light design investment and would the brand benefit and respond? These are very hard strategic decisions.

After you have created a clear picture on how this brand ranks within the organization, you can then organize the brands and bundle them by common characteristics. This allows for natural design and process synergies, the ability to partner with right agency and actualize cost savings when developing creative statement of works.

4) Create Swim Lanes for Creative Agencies. Provide your agencies with guidelines that distinguish job sharing and responsibilities across marketing initiatives. Blurred lines between agencies will end up causing reworks and delay, increasing costs.

A swim lane diagram will document clear ownership and responsibilities for each agency across a project. This is especially critical within “big idea” sessions. For example, if a digital agency proposes leveraging augmented reality to support a marketing campaign, then the package design agency should choose how to execute this on the package. Of course, the digital agency may need to be consulted for idea intent, but be extremely strict. Defined boundaries will limit rework and excess agency fees.

5) Develop Adaptive Workflows & Brand Guidelines. Agencies often need to communicate with each other, and you can help facilitate seamless execution.

To do this, document the design workflow and designate when creative hand-offs should happen between agencies. This type of workflow is often referred to as production decoupling.

For help with brand guidelines, ask your lead strategic agency to develop this to ensure consistency with other agencies. Within these guidelines, executional mandates should be clearly stated and outlined, including logo treatment across marketing platforms and approved color palettes, type fonts and photography styles. This tool will help marketing teams evaluate incoming creative, but more importantly will drive brand consistency and communication across multiple agencies.

The successful implementation of the tools outlined above will help your organization match the right agency to the right creative assignment. This deeper understanding around agency selection prompts smarter decisions which leads to less rework, increased efficiencies in spending and better utilization of internal and external creative resources.

For more information on agency selection and agency resourcing models, please contact the SGK Continuous Improvement team to learn about how to use these tools and this framework within your organization. http://www.sgkinc.com/about-us/contact-us

About the Author
Carrie-Golvash_headshotCarrie Golvash brings 20+ years of CPG expertise in agency management, brand design and launching new products into the marketplace. As a member of the SGK Continuous Improvement Practice (CIP), Carrie has strategically led initiatives with CPGs to increase their speed-to-market, reduce costs in the marketing supply chain and better utilize their internal and external resources. Prior to SGK, Carrie headed up the brand design and packaging department for Heinz North America.





* Estimate based on CI Initiative at $12B Global CPG Company that focused on implementing a more adaptive agency strategy rather than strategic agency strategy.

[1] Analysis between two agencies from a prior life showed agency one’s pricing was $175/per hour. Design Adaptive agency was $110/per hour.   Based on estimates between the two agencies, client would save 37% on the project if awarded to adaptive agency.


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Optimizing Fixed Palette: The Future of CMYK

By Doug Jones – VP Global Marketing Apex International

Recent studies and trials aimed at optimizing Pantone simulation suggest that the fixed palette approach is ready to revolutionize the flexography and label industries.  The change is due specifically to advancements allowing for unprecedented process control and consistency as well as the development of new tools designed to pinpoint which process parameters are failing so they may be addressed before problems arise.

A recent trial by Soma Engineering in partnership with Apex International has provided hard data supporting the idea that process variable elimination and optimization of remaining processes is the key to maximizing the number of Pantone simulation possibilities using 4 color fixed palette.  The study also produced data comparing the 4 color fixed palette to 7 color.  The trial was conducted on a Soma 8 color gearless press OPTIMA.

“Using CMYK plus Orange, Green and Reflex Blue, we were able to hit 1,412 Pantones within a ΔE of 2 or approximately 81% of Pantones.  Comparatively, we were able to hit 1,184 Pantones using just CMYK within the same ΔE.  However, when we included silver we hit an additional 1,184 in metallic Pantones bring the total Pantone simulation to 2,604.” said Nick Harvey, Technical Advisor at Apex International. “We also hit a total of 1,519 Pantones using 7 color and 1,302 using 4 color within a ΔE of 3.  Including metallics, we hit 2,604 Pantones.  I don’t believe any other CMYK trial has gotten close to these targets.”

According to Harvey, 4 color fixed palette has two distinct advantages over 7 color. The first is a matter of variable elimination.  Printers need to determine if the additional 228 Pantones are worth the inclusion of three additional variables.  The second advantage relates to flexibility.  Harvey states that estimated 95% of printers only have 8 unit presses.  4 color fixed pallet allows for inclusion of metallics, various lacquers, double white and other options that create value and subsequently command a higher price point.

The demand for optimized fixed palette is only expected to grow as brand owners demand better color consistency with shorter run lengths and just-in-time production.  Chief among these concerns is the ability to create color consistency across multiple markets ensuring that the same values and same Pantones can be printed on labels just as they can on films.

“Achieving color consistency is probably the most difficult component of transitioning to a fixed palette process.” said Bas van der Poel, Technical Sales Manager at Apex International. “Fixed palette is about control: control over variables, control over ink flow and so on.  It is this control that has allowed us to hit the number of Pantones we have with this trial and do so while not having to make any changes to plate inventory.  It requires a level of control that simply is not possible with conventional anilox rolls.”

Apex International holds globally recognized patents on an award-winning technology that uses continuous lasers to engrave a slalom pattern onto the anilox.  The continuous laser is responsible for creating an anilox product capable of the smooth, consistent and controlled laydown necessary to optimize fixed palette.

“What these trials have shown us is that specific attributes of our GTT engraving perform exceptionally well with fixed palette.  It has a tolerance of 2% on volume and ink transfer.  GTT engraved rolls are 90% opening while maintaining wall stability.  Ink flow is more consistent and unobstructed, subsequently solving spitting issues and producing a controlled, smooth laydown.  All these things contribute to the results we’ve seen with Soma.” said Harvey.

“This project was part of our annual Flexo Challenges Conference, where we address the latest trends in the flexo industry. The result was beyond expectations with significant benefits for the printers as well as the brand owners. Combination of HQ short run press, HQ anilox technology and pre-press knowledge positions flexo technology in much better shape in relation to competitive gravure printing.” said Petr Blaško, Marketing Manager at Soma Engineering.

Apex has also developed a closed loop process that is designed to aid in the implementation of fixed palette. The process involves the use of a calibration roll that guarantees full production control by identifying which parameters are failing so that they may be addressed.

“In many respects the calibration process is just as critical as the use of GTT in fixed palette optimization.” concludes Nick Harvey.

Visit www.apex-groupofcompanies.com or http://www.soma-eng.com for more information.

About the Author:

CA439031-A4B7-4A13-AF46-0268299E4FF5B8F1C2F5-60F2-4C73-9CE4-D8AB3DE23D3EDoug Jones is Vice President of Global Marketing at Apex International, the world’s largest manufacturer of anilox and meter products with 7 locations on 4 continents and sales offices covering over 80 countries.  He holds a bachelors degree in Communications from Penn State and a Masters of Business Administration.  He lives in Sewickely, Pennsylvania USA

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Filed under Color Management, Printing

How many samples do I need? (with lots of assumptions)

by John Seymour, John the Math Guy

In an earlier post, I looked at the question “How many samples of a production run do I need to assure that 68% are within tolerance?” I concluded with “at least 300, and preferably 1,200. In the first pass I made only one assumption – that the sampling of parts to test was done at random. I answered the question with no information about the metric or about the process.

For my answer, I reduced the question down to a simple one. Suppose that a green M&M is put into a bucket/barrel/swimming pool whenever a good part is produced, and that a red M&M is put in whenever a bad part is produced. For the testing of this production run, M&Ms are pulled out at random, and noted as being either good or bad. After tallying the color of each M&M, they are replaced into the bucket/barrel/swimming pool.

Christmas m and ms

Note the assumptions. I assume that the production run is sampled at run with replacement. And that’s about it.

Statistics of color difference values

Today I answer the question with a whole lot of additional assumptions. Today I assume that the metric being measured and graded is the color difference value, in units of ΔE. And I make some assumptions about the statistical nature of color differences.

I assembled real-world data to create an archetypal cumulative probability density function (CPDF) of color difference data from a collection of 262 color difference data sets each with 300 to 1,600 data points. In total, my result is a distillation of  317,667 color differences from 201 different print devices, including web offset, coldset, flexo, and ink jet printers. So, a lot of data was reduced to a set of 101 percentile points shown in the image below. Note that this curve has been normalized to have a median value of 1.0 ΔE, on the assumption that all the curves have the same shape, but differ in scale.

Archetypal CPDF of deltaE

Archetypal cumulative probability density function for color difference data (ΔEab)

For my analysis, it is assumed that all color difference data has this same shape. Note that if one has a data set of color difference data, it can be transformed to relate to this archetype by dividing all the color difference values by the median of the data set. In my analysis of the 262 data sets, this may not of been an excellent assumption, but then again, it was not a bad assumption.

The archetypal curve is based on data from printing test targets each with of hundreds of CMYK values, and not from production runs of 10,000 copies of a single CMYK patch. For this analysis, I make the assumption that run-time color differences behave kinda the same. I’ve seen data from a couple three press runs. I dunno, might not be such a good assumption.

Let’s see… are there any other assumptions that I am making today? Oh yeah… I have based the archetypal CPDF on color difference data based on the original 1976 ΔE formula and not the 2000. Today, I don’t know how much of a difference this makes. Some day, I might know.

Monte Carlo simulation of press runs

I did some Monte Carlo simulations with all the aforementioned assumptions. I was asking a variation on the question asked in the previous blog. Instead of asking what the how many samples were needed to make a reliable pass/fail call, I asked how many samples were needed to get a reliable estimate of the 68th percentile. Subtle difference, but that’s the nature of statistics.

As in the previous blog, I will start with the example of the printer who pulls only three samples and from these three, determines the 68th percentile. I’m not sure just how you get a 68th percentile from only three samples, but somehow when I use the PERCENTILE function in Excel or the Quantile function in Mathematica, they give me a number. I assume that the number means something reasonable.

Now for a couple more assumptions. I will assume that the tolerance threshold is 4 ΔE (in other words, 68% must be less than 4 ΔE), and that the printer is doing a pretty decent job of holding this – 68% of the samples are below 3.5 ΔE. One would hope that the printer gets the thumbs up on the job almost all the time, right?

Gosh, that would be nice, but my Monte Carlo simulation says that this just ain’t gonna happen. I ran the test 10,000 times. Each time, I drew three random samples from the archetypal CPDF shown above. From those, I calculated a 68th percentile. The histogram below shows the distribution of the 68th percentiles determined this way. Nearly 55% of the press runs were declared out of tolerance.

68th is 3 point 5, three samples

Distribution of estimates for the 68th percentile, determined from 3 random samples

There is something just a tad confusing here. The assumption was that the press runs had a 68th percentile of 3.5 ΔE. Wouldn’t you expect that at least 50% of the runs were in tolerance? Yes, I think you might, but note two things: First, the distribution above is not symmetrical. Second, as I said before, determining the 68th percentile of a set of three data points is a bit of a slippery animal.

When this printer saw how many were failing, he asked for my advice. I pointed him to my previous blog, and he said “1200?!?!?  Are you kidding me!?!?  I can’t even afford to measure 300 samples!” He ignored me, and never paid me my $10,000 consulting fee, but I heard through the grapevine that he did start pulling 30 samples. That’s why I get paid the big bucks. So people can ignore my advice.

68th is 3 point 5, 30 samples

Distribution of estimates for the 68th percentile, determined from 30 random samples

The image above shows what happened when he started measuring the color error on 30 samples per press run. Much better. Now only about 13% of the press runs are erroneously labelled “bad product”. What happened after that depended on how sharp the teeth were in the contract between the printer and print buyer. Maybe the print buyer just shrugged it off when one out of every 8 print runs were declared out of tolerance? Maybe there’s a lawsuit pending? I don’t know. That particular printer never called me up with a status report.

What if the printer had heeded my advice and started pulling 300 samples to determine the 68th percentile? The results from one last Monte Carlo experiment are shown below. Here the printer pulled all 300 samples that I asked for. At the end of 10,000 press runs, the printer had only three examples where a good press run was called “bad”.

68th is 3 point 5, 300 samples

Distribution of estimates for the 68th percentile, determined from 300 random samples

Print buyer’s perspective

The previous examples were from the printer’s perspective, where the printer responds with self-righteous indignation when sadistical control process has the gall to say that a good run is bad. We now turn this around and look at the print buyer’s perspective.

Let’s say that a printer is doing work that is not up to snuff… I dunno… let’s say that the 68th percentile is at 4.5 ΔE. If the print buyer is a forgiving sort, then maybe this is OK by him. But then again, maybe his wife might tell him to stop being such a door mat?  (I am married to a woman who tells her spouse that all the time, especially when it comes to clients not paying.) We can’t simulate what this print buyer’s wife will tell him, but we can simulate how often statistical process control will erroneously tell him that a 4.5 ΔE run was good.

The results are similar, as I guess we would expect. If your vision of “statistical process control” means three samples, then 21.1% of the bad jobs will be given the rubber stamp of approval. The printer may like that, but I don’t think the print buyer’s spouse will stand for it.

If you up the sampling to 10 samples, quite paradoxically, the rate of mis-attribution goes up to 35.7%. That darn skewed distribution.

Pulling thirty samples doesn’t help a great deal either. With 30 samples, the erroneous use of the “approved” stamp goes down only to 15.7%. If the count is increased to 100, then about 4.7% of the bad runs are called “good”. But when 300 samples are pulled, the number drops way down to 0.06%.


I ran the simulation with a number of different sample sizes and a number of different underlying levels of “quality of production run”.  The results are below. The percentages are the probability of making a wrong decision. In the first three lines of the table (3.0 ΔE to 3.75 ΔE), this is the chance that a good job will be called bad. In the next three lines of the table, this is the chance that a bad job will be called good.

Actual 68th N = 3 N = 10 N = 30 N = 100 N = 300
3.0 ΔE 37.0% 4.0% 0.6% 0.0% 0.0%
3.5 ΔE 54.6% 18.1% 12.9% 1.5% 0.0%
3.75 ΔE 61.1% 29.0% 30.2% 13.2% 4.8%
4.25 ΔE 25.9% 47.5% 29.7% 20.9% 5.1%
4.5 ΔE 21.1% 35.7% 15.7% 4.7% 0.1%
5.0 ΔE 13.1% 19.6% 2.9% 0.0% 0.0%


Calculation of this table is a job for an applied math guy. Interpreting the table is a job for a statistician, which is at the edge of my competence. Deciding how to use this table is beyond my pay grade. It depends on how comfortable you are with the various outcomes. If, as a printer, you are confident that your process has a 68th percentile of 3.0 ΔE or less, then 30 samples should prove that point. And if your process slips a bit to the 3.5 ΔE level, and you are cool with having one out of eight of these jobs recalled, then don’t let no one talk you into more than 30 samples. If you don’t want those jobs recalled though…

If, as a print buyer, you really have no intention of cracking down on a printer until they hit the 5 ΔE mark, then you may be content with 30 samples. But if you want to have some teeth in the contract when a printer goes over 4.5 ΔE, then you need to demand at least 100 samples.

First addendum

You will note that my answer was a little different than the previous blog post where I made minimal assumptions. If I make all the assumptions that are in this analysis, then the number of samples required (to demonstrate that 68% of the colors are within a threshold color difference) is smaller than the previous blog might  have suggested. Note that If one has a data set of color difference data, it can be transformed to relate to this archetype by dividing all the color difference values by the median of the data set. Then again, that one word (“assume“, and its derivatives) in bold print has appears on this page 22 times…

Second addendum

In the first section, I mentioned “sampling with replacement”, which means that you might sample a given product twice. Kind of a waste of time, really. Especially for small production runs, where the likelihood of duplicated effort is larger. Taken to the extreme, my conclusion was clearly absurd. Do I really need to pull 300 samples for my run of 50 units?!!?!?!

Well, no. Clearly one would sample a production run without replacement. But, in my world, a production run of 10,000 units is on the small side, so I admit to the myopic vision. For the purposes of this discussion, if the production run is over 10,000, it doesn’t matter a whole lot whether a few of the 1,200 samples are measured twice.

About the Author

John Seymour holds the title principal engineer for QuadTech, where he has been doing research in printing, color theory, and imaging since 1992. John was instrumental in the development of QuadTech’s Color Control System and AccuCam. John currently holds seventeen patents and has authored thirty technical papers. He is an expert on the Committee for Graphic Arts Technologies Standards and ISO TC 130, and currently serves on the board of the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts. He writes a blog under the pen name “John the Math Guy”, which is described as “applied math and color science with a liberal sprinkling of goofy humor.”

Prior to working with QuadTech, John worked as a scientific programmer in medical imaging, satellite imagery, electron microscopy, and spectroscopy. He holds bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and in computer science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

John had a hobby job as a karaoke host, going under the name “John the Revelator”, and before that his hobby job was teaching remedial math at a local university. He likes to think that he is gifted at “edutainment.” John teaches a color science class for QuadTech and has traveled as far as South Africa, England, Germany, and Hong Kong on speaking engagements.

Visit John’s Blog, John, the Math Guy – Applied math and color science with a liberal sprinkling of goofy humor, at http://johnthemathguy.blogspot.com/

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Filed under Color Management, Printing, Quality Control