A Guide to Reflectance Measurement Devices, Part 2

by John Seymour, John the Math Guy

Blogging my way to insanity

This blog post is a second or third or maybe fourth in a series of blog posts attempting to unbewilder the bewildering array of geometries for spectrophotometers. In the zero-eth post, I introduced the idea that reflected light comes in two forms: specular and bulk. That was background for the first post on spectrophotometers, where I discussed the 0/45 and 45/0 spectros. Then in a wild frenzy of blogomania, I followed up with a special article on measuring metallic inks. 

Today I look at one special case of 0/45 spectros, the polarized instruments. Stay tuned for the last section of the post, which is a public service announcement about the difference between process control and customer specs.


A problem unique to newsprint
Suppose your business is printing newspapers. You print on a rough, uncoated stock. You can’t get a terribly high density – everyone knows that, and accepts that a black ink with a density of 1.2D on newsprint is pretty dark. Everyone assumes it’s because the ink soaks into the paper. Actually, the larger effect is because you are seeing more of the specular component, but that’s not the point of this blog post.

Do you realize just how much dryback we have today!!!??

Do you realize just how much dryback we have today!!!??

Here’s a funny thing that everyone in the business of measuring the color of newspaper printing knows about: dryback. If you measure the density of ink hot off the press, and then again minutes or hours later, you will see a drop in the richness of the color. The density will drop by around 0.10D. They call this dryback.

And here’s a funny thing that few people in the business of measuring the color of newspaper printing know. If you were able to measure the density of ink on the press as it is running – not just “hot off the press”, but “hot a few milliseconds after the ink hits the paper”, you would be astounded at the amount of dryback there is. (I was astonished.)

A rich black ink might have a density of 1.10D when it just comes off the press. That same ink will dryback to maybe 1.03D. When it has just been put on the paper, the ink has a density approaching 2.00D. To put that in perspective, that number is higher than almost all printing of black ink on fancy-shmancy ultra-high quality paper.

Wow. Really?

Yes. Really. I was involved in the development of an newspaper color control system, and I have seen it myself with my own two sensors. When ink is first applied to the paper, the surface of the ink is very smooth. As a result, all of the specular light heads off at one angle, and a 0/45 spectrophotometer won’t even notice it. As the ink dries, it conforms to the rough surface of the paper, and the spectrophotometer will start seeing the specular reflection.

What are we gonna do?!?!?
Celio, Mast and Ott, celebrating their brilliant discovery

Celio, Mast and Ott, celebrating their brilliant discovery

Dryback is troublesome for process control. But three guys who were working for Gretag came up with a solution. As the story goes, Tino Celio, Hans Ott, and Mast (I don’t recall this last guy’s first name) were sunning themselves at Malibu Beach. These guys were sipping umbrella drinks and talking about the sad state of affairs when it comes to measuring the color of ink on newsprint.Celio (I think it was him) pointed out some attractive lady, commenting that it would take an instrument with a pretty small aperture to measure the color of that bikini. I am sure most everyone reading this column can relate to the situation… pointing out a hot babe or stud to a buddy. (I assume that most everyone in divorce court can relate to pointing out a hot babe or stud to their spouse.)Ott said “What are you pointing at? All I see is glare!”. Mast. always the clever one, pointed out that Celio was wearing polarized sunglasses, and Ott was not. When the two switched glasses, Ott said “Ahhh… I see her now.” A light bulb suddenly appeared above all three heads.

I may not have gotten the story quite right. I wasn’t there at the time. Maybe it was the Riviera, since these guys were Europeans. I think they were from Switzerland or Uruguay or somewhere? Maybe they were drinking a good Bordeaux? Who knows?  All I am sure of is that one of these guys got this idea.

A pair of polarizing filters can be used to eliminate practically all the specular reflection that a 0/45 spectro sees. Bear in mind that bulk reflection is randomly polarized, but specular reflections remembers the polarization of the incident light. The following diagrams explain how we can take advantage of this fact to separate the bulk from the specular.

Polarized inst #1

All tiny facet of the sample surface that are tilted at 22.5o will direct specular light to the detector

A polarizer is added just after the light -- note that the specular reflection has the same polarization

A polarizer is added just after the light –
note that the specular reflection has the same polarization

Adding an s polarizer at the detector will eliminate this specular reflection

Adding an s polarizer at the detector will eliminate this specular reflection

With these filters in place in your densitomoter, you can measure the sheets right as they come off the press, an hour later, or a week later. The polarized density won’t change. A polarized densitometer is a great tool because it is immune to changes in gloss.

We have ourselves a process control tool! This tool has gained acceptance among densitometerophiles in Europe. But as good of an idea as this might be, it has never really caught on in the US. I suspect that the invention of the Atlantic Ocean has to do with this.The definition of what goes into a polarized densitometer has been enshrined in ISO 13655, and polarized densitometers are referred to by the euphonious name “the M3 condition.”


Naturally, you’re gonna ask how polarized and non-polarized densities compare to one another. Surely there is a simple conversion, right?  As is often the case when I am asked a question, I have two answers: yes and no.
Polarized to non-polarized
The plot shows measurements of a total of forty solid black patches, all of which were fully dried. Each patch was measured by a densitometer with and without polarization. The patches range in density from very light to very heavy, according to the pressman’s subjective view. Ten of the patches were printed on a matte stock, ten on low gloss stock, ten on a medium gloss, and ten on a high gloss stock. The gloss of each was eyeballed by my very carefully calibrated eyeball.The x axis of the plot is the density as measured without a polarizer.  The y axis is the amount that the density of the patch increases when measured with a polarized densitometer.The red arrows illustrate the conversion from non-polarized to polarized on a matte stock. For that particular stock a density of 1.10D shows a difference of about 0.28D. That is, a 1.10D non-polarized density would be read as 1.38D polarized. Similarly, the blue arrows show how the density changes for a matte stock. A nonpolarized density of 2.00D is increased by only 0.06D when the polarizer is kicked in.There are a couple of interesting things to note from this graph. First, for any particular stock and ink, there is a very simple transform between non-polarized and polarized. The difference between one and the other falls along a nice straight line. That’s good news. There is a simple transform!Second, the actual line for correction is highly dependent on the paper stock. For a very glossy stock, the correction is minimal; for a matte stock it is greater. That’s bad news. The simple transform is not universal. To make matters worse, note that the medium gloss patches show the largest change. The patches on the low gloss stock have a conversion much more similar to the patches on the glossy stock.Third, I will put to rest an old wive’s tale. Density is kinda sorta linear with ink film thickness. In truth, the relationship flattens out as you go higher in density / ink film thickness. The tale that the old wife told me is that polarized density is much more better – polarized density maintains this linearity over a wider range of density.

The plot above shows this wives tale is just an old wive’s tale. For any particular stock, there is a linear relationship between polarized and non-polarized density of dry ink, so any comments about linearity with ink film thickness that you can make about one holds equally true for the other.

Process control, or meeting customer requirements?
A great man once said that a polarized densitometer is a great tool because it is immune to changes in gloss. It gives you an indirect indication of the ink film thickness without confounding it with the gloss.On the other hand, that same wise man is about to say that a polarized densitometer is a lousy tool because it only gives you an indication of what the sample looks like when it is viewed under polarized light while wearing polarized sunglasses with your head tilted properly. I haven’t done any in-depth surveys, but I think that most print buyers and readers of newspapers don’t look at the newspaper under this condition.

Using a polarized densitometer to monitor color is like using this guy as an accountant

Using a polarized densitometer to monitor color
is like using this guy as an accountant

The annoying thing about customers is that they have this nasty habit of getting annoyed when the product is not what they wanted. Go figger. If we could only get rid of our customers, life would be so much easier. The print buyer (and end user) really and truly doesn’t care if the “correct” amount of ink has been applied to the paper. If the color on the paper is not the color that they were expecting, then it’s time for them to ask for rebates or go looking for another printer.

Therein lies a dilemma which is inherent to deciding on a color measurement instrument. Are you trying to do process control, or are you trying to measure the color?  Do you want your printing press to run predictably, or would you prefer to get the color that your customer wants?  Process control or customer satisfaction?

Process control often leads to meeting customer requirements. If the whole process is under control, then this is indeed the case. But, for anyone who has either dealt with customer complaints from the field, or who is married, it will be obvious that the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.

ISO 12647, parts 2 and 3

And now for the public service announcement…ISO 12647-2 is the standard when it comes to defining print. The purpose of this standard is to serve as a set of acceptance criteria for print. It is often cited as part of a contract for a printing job. Part 2 is about commercial web offset printing and part 3 is about cold set web offset (AKA newspaper) printing.Since the inception of part 2 in 1996, this standard has been clear that quality monitoring is the thing, and not process control. (Well, at least for the solids.) Density (be it polarized or non-polarized) is not a reliable indicator of the color that you see, and should not be used as an acceptance criteria. All the colors of the solids and the solid overprints in the standard are specified in CIELAB, since CIELAB is the closest thing we have to our perception of color.The standards are clear that densitometers are a useful tool for process control, internal to the printing plant. Generally, the printer establishes the density that will get to the proper CIELAB value with any particular substrate and ink combination, and will run to that. But ISO 12647-2 and -3 make it clear that the printer and print buyer should not converse in density when it comes to setting targets and tolerances. And as I have noted here, the printer and print buyer darn well better not even think about talking polarized density. There are just some things that are better left behind closed doors.

About the Author

John Seymour

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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How to Avoid Product Recalls While Building Your Brand


By Michael Leeds,
Senior Vice President of Client Engagement, Americas, SGK

The American food industry is on the cusp of an unprecedented change in regulatory standards, inspection, enforcement and, logically, the frequency of recalls. The number of “reportable foods” in the Reportable Food Registry is increasing. The FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act has given the FDA much more authority, including authority over actual recalls, food performance standards, traceability and inspections. And manufacturers are likely to be responsible for hazard analysis systems.1 But that’s not all.

FDA-proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts label (covering nutrition information, serving sizes and the size of the label itself) and the display of other information could impact nearly 60,000 manufacturers and 750,000 Universal Product Codes (UPCs), representing nearly $250 billion in sales.2

These changes require significant relabeling efforts by manufacturers in a specific time frame and have been estimated to cost up to $3 billion.3 And the European Union is already well into labeling changes that must be completed by the end of 2014.

Naturally this activity has forced food manufacturers and brand owners to analyze the impact on their businesses. For example, a great deal has been written on how these companies should handle the increased liability risk and the obstacles to recovery after a recall. But there’s been less discussion of the food label itself – and this is risky, because where product safety, recall protocols and nutrition information are concerned, all roads go through the label.

Simply put, any company that’s potentially exposed to the risk and damage of recall due to misleading or inaccurate label information should be preparing to optimize its graphics processes. This will ensure that nutrition and traceability information is accurate in the first place, which in turn can mitigate the risk of a mislabeling recall and lower risk insurance costs. It will also go a long way toward satisfying government agencies and consumers, as both groups are loudly demanding better, clearer, more accurate labels. And optimum labeling can preserve – even enhance – hard-earned brand equity.

How can a manufacturer or brand owner optimize the accuracy of a product label? There are several interconnected ways:

A full commitment to best practices. In the coming years, this is not a luxury or idealistic – it’s crucial. In 2011, the Grocery Manufacturers Association surveyed representatives from 36 companies, a majority of them with more than $1 billion in sales and nearly a quarter with sales over $5 billion. All had undergone Class I (health and safety) recalls.

Nearly half estimated the cost of the recalls at under $9 million, but 29 percent estimated between $10 million and $29 million, and 23 percent estimated $30 million or more. For 5 percent, the cost was more than $100 million.4 The cost of a full implementation of best-in-class graphics workflow management system is far lower than this, and it pays permanent benefits.

Here’s another way to look at it… While the FDA calculates the cost of amortizing the impending packaging regulations over a 20-year span, an optimum graphics process can be implemented in less than a year.

In this light, the new food labeling regulations aren’t just regulations: they’re a prime opportunity to refresh and grow brands – and to drive agility and efficiency in the graphics process to save costs and increase speed to market.

A commitment to a better graphics workflow and technology. At a cost far less than even a small Class I recall, a manufacturer or brand owner can implement a system such as SGK’s BLUE, including implementation, training and ongoing support. This kind of system is designed specifically to optimize the storage and application of label artwork and copy across all media. It minimizes the number of “touches” by humans in the process of producing labels or digital expressions. And it protects approved assets from accidental changes or misapplication. It can even produce key performance indicator data to further improve accuracy and speed.

Technology like this is fully embraced by the pharmaceutical industry for the same reasons it’s now ideal for the food industry: strict demands for quality, accuracy and traceability, including cGMP mandates. And in an age of “just-in-time” global manufacturing, this geography-agnostic technology can give companies much- needed control of far-away processes.

Vendor consolidation. While much of the new burdens fall on manufacturers, brands can suffer in long-lasting ways from recalls. And when a comprehensive store brand is supplied by dozens or even hundreds of vendors, it’s very difficult to have total visibility and control of accuracy and consistency on labels. Consolidating the label graphics phase with one expert company – rather than leaving it to the individual manufacturers – gives the brand owner considerable control, consistency and savings.

When companies use multiple agencies and multiple printers, there often isn’t a single source of coordination. And many companies no longer have the additional staff or deep knowledge on their payroll that they had 10 or 20 years ago. It may be that the medium- and small-sized companies are even more in need of impact analyses and project management services than the larger food and beverage manufacturers.

Although the food labeling regulatory changes discussed here are still being formulated and finalized, it’s certain that food manufacturers and brands will have additional new risks and burdens. They will address those through risk assumption and risk transfer plans, certainly. But risk avoidance is equally crucial. Optimizing the graphics supply chain and workflow processes is a proven strategy for risk reduction – and brand building.

About the Author:Michael_Leeds 2

As Senior Vice President of Client Engagement, Americas, at SGK, Michael Leeds has over twenty-five years of client-facing experience supporting global brands that include Accenture, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, and Kellogg. Michael’s roles include Global Account Management, leading SGK’s Client Engagement Organization, and creating leading practices for the Client Growth Organization. Michael holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Rutgers University in New Jersey. http://www.sgkinc.com


  1. In Appendix 1 of “Capturing Recall Costs: Measuring and Recovering the Losses,” GMA/Association of Food, Beverage and Consumer Products Companies, Covington & Burling LLP, Ernst & Young; October 2011.
  2. Nutrition Facts/Serving Sizes Combined PRIA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  3. Ibid.
  4. In “The Price of a Recall” in “Capturing Recall Costs: Measuring and Recovering the Losses.”


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New Doctor Blade Technology Is Worth a Look


FlexoConcepts-logoBy Brad Williams, OEM/ Account Executive, Flexo Concepts

New_Technologies_SignAs a salesman introducing new technology to a mature industry, I am constantly hearing, “But I’ve done it this way forever.” Press men are busy and don’t’ have time to waste trying new products when their current ones are working fine. But changing times call for an ongoing evaluation of your print process to find ways to improve. Today’s printers are smart to run controlled tests of new products to make sure they are maximizing efficiency and profitability and “keeping up with the times.”

Anilox roll evolution

Chrome anilox rolls

I like to use anilox rolls as an analogy. When chrome-plated anilox rolls came on the market almost 80 years ago, they were an improvement over the previous (and crude) methods of ink transfer. Steel rolls were covered with a chrome layer and mechanically engraved using a knurling tool. The dimples or “cells” filled with a precise volume of ink and carried them to the plate.  This gave the printer more control over the ink application process and better print quality.

As the industry continued to evolve, however, the limitations of chrome-plated rolls became apparent. The chrome surfaces wore down quickly from the friction between the roll and the doctor blade. Due to their shape, the cells quickly lost volume capacity and print densities declined. Also, the maximum line screens that could be achieved with the knurling tool were 500 lpi which was only enough for basic and moderate graphics reproduction. As demands for higher quality printing increased, and there were advancements in presses, plates and inks, so did the need for better anilox roll technology.

Ceramic-coated rolls

To keep pace with the industry, anilox roll manufacturers began applying a ceramic coating to their rolls using a plasma spray device. These new surfaces had hardness of over 1400 Vickers compared to 850-900 Vickers for the chrome-plated surfaces.  As the hardness of the roll determines its strength and durability, the new surfaces had better resistance to wear from the doctor blade. These rolls were too hard to engrave mechanically and lasers started being used to etch the rolls. The lasers produced a consistent engraving with cleaner cells and more distinct cell walls. Higher line screens could be achieved to expand a printer’s graphics capabilities. The ceramic surfaces not only lasted longer but the cells were also less sensitive to volume changes from wear. Printers gained more control over print quality and were now able to achieve target ink densities with thinner ink films.

New doctor blade technology

Like presses and other press components, doctor blades have evolved to adapt to the market. Blade manufacturers are continually experimenting with new materials and edge designs and introducing new doctor blade technology to keep up with their customers’ needs.


Today’s steel blade users have a choice of carbon, stainless, long life, coated and ceramic blades to fit their precise applications. Until now, steel was considered the only material capable of achieving a fine contact area with the roll and produce an effective wipe on high line screen engravings. Printers had to accept the downside of frequent blade changes, injuries and anilox roll scoring because there were no alternatives.


Plastics, on the other hand, have always been known for their blade life and safety. The material has to be thicker to provide rigidity and these blades were suitable only for producing low-moderate graphics. The upside is that they don’t have to be changed as often, and the long and steady wear period allows for consistent ink film thickness for the duration of the print job. The material is also safer to handle and won’t score anilox rolls. Plastic doctor blade choices include a variety of acetals, UHMWs, and polyesters.

Next generation doctor blades

Flexo Concepts® recently introduced a new blade that acts as a hybrid between steel and plastic. A combination of an advanced polymer material and an innovative tip design called “MicroTip™” allows the blade to perform in high line screen applications where previous non-metallic materials were not an option. Printers using these advanced polymer products get blades that can produce the graphics quality of steel while remaining safe to operators and anilox rolls. The blade is now successfully being used in a range of narrow web and wide web applications.

As with anilox rolls and other press components, new doctor blade technology has gone hand in hand with the evolution of the flexo printing industry.  The new polymer MicroTip blade is an example of a product that, once again, improves upon “what you were using before.”  Why not try it?

Request a TruPoint Orange Doctor Blade Sample

FlexoConcepts-logoAbout Flexo Concepts

Headquartered in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Flexo Concepts manufactures TruPoint doctor blades, the TruPoint QuikWash™ System and wash-up blades, and MicroClean™ dry media anilox cleaning systems.  All products are designed to improve print quality and reduce operational costs for flexographic and offset printers.  Flexo Concepts maintains distribution locations in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.  For more information about the company and its products visit www.flexoconcepts.com.


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Leverage New Label Regulations to Optimize E-Commerce Content


By Matt Bennett, SVP, Growth Strategies, Product Development & Innovation, SGK


U.S. and EU regulatory bodies are handing brand owners a prime opportunity to grow their brands. Regulations in force in Europe and pending in the U.S. do mean more work for brands: privately, major brands have told us that as many as a quarter of their U.S. labels will need complete redesign if current FDA proposals become reality in the next 12 to 18 months.

And this would be costly news if the mandates didn’t also present a golden opportunity for manufacturers and brands to radically improve package design, brand consistency, label accuracy and production efficiency, on both the physical and digital shelf.

In other words, by synchronizing workflows, brands can create a stronger shopper experience by ensuring that regardless of where consumers see your brand, in-store or online, the packaging is consistent.

EU brands must adhere to Regulation 1169 by the end of 2014, with clearer and more prominent display of allergen and other information on product packaging, on both the physical and digital shelf. Proposed FDA regulations will require changes to the Nutrition Facts label to emphasize calories, provide realistic serving sizes and align with the latest nutrition science. The FDA has not yet addressed images of packages online, but with e-commerce continuing to boom, it likely will. How hard would it be for you to comply?

At Schawk, we researched the consistency of physical shelf vs. digital shelf of a wide range of products from a wide range of retail brands. We were astonished at the extent of the disconnects: inconsistent product specs online, outdated artwork – even representations that were several rebrandings out of date. Here is what the U.S. and EU regulations address, for the sake of consumer safety:

  • Missing or incorrect data, ingredients, nutrition information and allergen alerts

But here are additional common problems we encountered:

  • Outdated product images
  • Images that don’t represent final approved artwork
  • Limited product views
  • Inconsistent or inaccurate color
  • Low resolution and poor e-commerce image quality

These problems are the result of e-commerce growing faster than e-content management processes are evolving to accommodate this growth – in other words, faster than brands’ capacity and commitment to total quality and accuracy online. But customers have sharp eyes and expect to see the same package content on the digital shelf as they saw on the physical shelf. Without this seamless shelf, they can question authenticity or freshness.

And shoppers who only know your packaging from e-commerce images can be confused when they receive a newer package in the mail. In either situation, you risk eroding consumer trust in the brand – the very trust that you’ve built over time at great expense through traditional channels. You could lose customers to a competitor who’s getting e-content right.

Or you could do it right, and reap these benefits along with regulatory compliance:

  • Absolute brand consistency
  • Absolute product information accuracy
  • Greater agility and speed in executing design changes online
  • Greater efficiency and significant cost control

With global B2C e-commerce sales expected to rise 20.1% this year, reaching $1.5 trillion1, strict accuracy across channels is paramount. In one study, 24 percent of shoppers said they didn’t trust online product information as much as information in-store. And more than four in ten said they’ve given up on an online purchase because they didn’t feel they had enough information.2 These startling figures prove that what’s on the digital shelf must be as complete and accurate as what shoppers find on the physical shelf.

Convinced? Here’s how to achieve that accuracy.

Commitment. Commit to complete, correct and up-to-date packaging wherever your brand appears – on the digital shelf as well as on the physical shelf. This typically requires an in-house advocate and buy-in at the top levels.

And there is outside expertise, like Schawk’s Packaging e-content service, that helps you take control of e-content management from approved, regulatory- compliant copy and artwork to consistent, high-quality e-commerce images.

Audit. Thoroughly check your brand’s e-commerce images across online retailers and product review sites. If you’re seeing a mix of 2D and 3D images, different angles, different lighting and color, missing information and outdated images, you’re eroding consumer confidence and – soon – opening yourself up to regulatory issues. Note: if you’re using an outside firm to assist in this audit, the findings will be even more pertinent and actionable.

Organization. Inside many companies, often there is no one single person accountable for packaging e-content. It’s split by brand and among individuals in different departments as well as among a variety of external suppliers. Brand managers have a clearly defined supply chain process to ensure the package on the physical shelf is right and ready on time. But without a similarly unified strategy for packaging e-content development, it’s difficult to control a brand’s timely and accurate representation on the digital shelf.

Technology. Even assuming brand owners use a digital asset library, they often don’t have 3D images of packages or multiple 2D panel shots depicting product information. And if they do, it’s usually been created through a conventional photography process that eats up six to eight weeks, costs more, produces fewer images and opens up this part of the supply chain to risk. And this happens every time a design is refreshed or ingredients change or a new packaging regulation requires compliance. It’s a vicious cycle.

An e-content management solution that uses approved artwork files and enforces GS1 standards for 3D images promotes compliance with your own standards for packaging images online. The result is 100 percent synchronization of content for packaging on the physical shelf and digital shelf.

Process. It’s crucial to develop digital brand content in tight integration with the same workflows used to create and manage artwork for the physical shelf. This requires synchronization among brand teams, design departments, marketing services, procurement and more. It’s a process that Schawk helps its clients implement. And it creates e-commerce images directly from the final, approved master artwork file for the physical package – including complete views of all required informational elements. This way, the product on the digital shelf is never preliminary, incomplete, variable or untrustworthy.

Without control of the process, you do not deliver value or reap the benefits of speed, cost, efficiency, quality and regulatory compliance. Control the process and you will control the benefits.

 About the Author:

Matt_Bennett_low resMatt Bennett leads big, complex, long-term strategic initiatives while always keeping his ‘eye on the prize’ – how successful businesses with ambitious brands drive innovation. He spent many years as a head of graphics and packaging innovation manager at Coors Brewers, driving a strong creative-thinking-and-innovation culture across many business functions. Today he’s a senior vice president at SGK, a leading global brand development, activation and deployment company that drives brand performance, with responsibilities for growth strategies, product development and innovation. For Bennett, innovation is everyone’s job, and corporations need to foster a culture that encourages every team to engage in creative, collaborative thinking every day. http://schawk.com/what-we-do/packaging-e-content 

 Visit SGK at  http://www.sgkinc.com


  1. http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Global-B2C-Ecommerce-Sales-Hit-15-Trillion-This-Year-Driven-%20by-Growth-Emerging%20Markets/1010575
  2. “Four in 10 Abandon Purchase for Lack of Information,” SJP Business Media, GS1 UK, February 24, 2014.

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Dr. John Writes: How to Make Your Older Press More Productive and Profitable


Throughout life, as we get older, we longingly remember what it was like to be young—to be able to do amazing things in sports or work that today would have us begging for mercy. In the end, we all wish to be younger again. Well, I see a similar trend among many printers who have older flexo presses and want them to perform like they were new. They want to do more with them, but the reality is that older presses generally have register and impression control limitations that a printer would not see with a new press.

However, there are a number of steps a printer can take to improve the productivity and profitability of an older press. Over the past few years, one of the most common changes has been an expansion in the use of KODAK FLEXCEL NX Plates on older presses. What’s interesting to note in this trend is the fact that users are often embracing the thicker 0.107” plates instead of the normal 0.067” plates in North America, making the shift even more significant.

What are the benefits of making changes to improve the performance of your older press? It’s simple—the older presses are paid for, their running costs and maintenance are often quite low, and the operators are already trained. So the payoff on your efforts to improve an older press just adds to the bottom line, which is good for everyone.

Although many presses in the field today are 20-30 years old or more, new plate technology makes it possible for them to come to color more quickly while offering better stability and longer plate life, along with fewer stops for plate cleaning. An added benefit at some production facilities is the expanded tonal range and stability of these plates, allowing better image fidelity, more continuous tone, and better looking images, with or without an increase in the lpi of materials being printed. As a result, print salespeople are able to sell a better product for potentially a better price, further improving the profitability of the existing equipment.

Normally, you might expect that every printer would at least want to know what a new plate could do for them, but interestingly it is often not the case. In many cases, the printer is actually resistant to testing, not believing that they can do any better with their existing equipment and people. That’s often the nature of almost any manufacturing business.

Instead, the push for change is coming from an unexpected source. We are seeing an increase in brand owners who have seen positive results elsewhere, investigated the technology, and then convinced their printers to try high definition solutions to improve their products and their shelf impact. This is true not only for 4- and 7-color process work, but also for 1- and 2-color tone work, such as multi-wall bags, envelopes, and basic flexible packaging.

Whether pushed by clients or taking it upon themselves to find improvements, most printers who make the switch to high definition plate technology are amazed by what they can do with their existing presses, especially when they don’t try to go too far at first. The “walk before you run” mentality is being applied with success. They are gradually moving more and more jobs over to new plate technology, improving their productivity and profitability every day.

To accomplish the improved results on older equipment, the digital flat top dot works best, providing more impression latitude, and more forgiveness to the older technologies driving it. Flat top dots also deliver longer plate life compared to the round top dots of the traditional digital LAMS plates. In addition, micro surface texturization such as KODAK DIGICAP NX Patterning helps improve ink transfer, lowers the required impression pressures, and extends plate life.

Whether looking for change, or dragged to it kicking and screaming, once printers see the improvements that are truly possible in daily production—without any drama or magic pixie dust required—the technology starts to sell itself.

The biggest compliment I hear comes from the printer managers, who say that the printers love the plate so much because it makes their lives easier. In fact, they ask for it all the time, and complain when they have to reuse the older plates for repeat jobs.

Try the technology for yourself. Contact Kodak or one of the many trade shops already offering FLEXCEL NX Plate Technology. See how you can make your older press more productive and profitable.

Dr. John’s Contact Information:

John-Anderson-AugFor anyone who does want to email me, please use john.anderson3@kodak.com and please don’t miss out the number 3 in the address, or you will reach another John Anderson in Kodak manufacturing!

Have a wonderful day,
Dr. John

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A Guide to Reflectance Measurement Devices: Part 1

by John Seymour, John the Math Guy

You wouldn’t think it would be all that hard. You go into McSpectros and ask the guy behind the counter to show you a reflectance measurement device. You expect the guy to ask whether you want to measure the specular or the bulk reflectance. If you read my blog on specular and gloss, you know that those are the two critical parts to look at.

When you get to the front of the line, you expect to be shown a couple different models. Maybe one will be pimped out with an LED light show synced up with Beyonce for the Millennial crowd. The deluxe model (eligible for senior discount) will have a cup holder for a Venti sized Starbucks, and will play Michael Buble as measurements are made.

Order of gloss

Oh… are you in for a rude awakening! There is a bewildering array of choices. I started counting up the different possibilities for configurations of an instrument and came up with 18 different types that are in use and officially blessed in the standards. Some of them are interchangeable—measurements made with one device should match those of another, at least in theory. But  there are still 12 different types of non-interchangeable measurements that can be made. The wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.

“I’d like a grande, two pump, d/8 spectro tea latte with SPEX, please.”

In reality, the big question is “gloss or bulk.” You want to measure one or the other, or both. But rather than ask that simple question, a wise reflectance measurement device salesperson will ask what line of business you are in.


Are you in the graphic arts?

If you are in the graphic arts, then you got it easy. All the instrumental decisions have been made for you. Thou shalt use either a 45/0 instrument or a 0/45 instrument. A 45/0 instrument is one where the light hits the sample at 45 degrees (preferably in a cone, all around the sample) and measures the reflectance at 0 degrees, which is to say, perpendicular to the surface of the sample. A 0/45 instrument simply interchanges the illumination and detection angles. The cool thing is that a wise old fellow named Helmholtz once said that 45/0 and 0/45 are interchangeable (usually). Most everyone I know believes him, so it must be true.

45 slash 0 geometry
Illustration of either 45/0 geometry or an upside-down umbrella


One of the rationales for picking the 45/0 or 0/45 geometry is that it emulates the way one would normally read a Victoria’s Secret catalog. Perhaps this may not have been apparent to everyone, but whenever I take a sidelong glance at this catalog that has been discretely addressed to my wife, the first thing I notice is that the magazine is printed on a high quality glossy stock. If I should happen to pick it up (which rarely happens, of course) I will naturally orient the prurient magazine so as to avoid seeing the specular reflection. One could argue that this natural viewing condition is something like 45/0.

Another rationale for 45/0 is that, when you convert these reflectance measurements to density, you have a number that is almost kinda sorta proportional to ink film thickness. One of the weaknesses in the correlation between the two is that darn specular reflectance. Even though 45/0 was designed to get rid of specular, a little bit or a lot of the specular will show up, depending on the smoothness of the surface.

This leads me to the topic of next week’s blog post, polarized spectrophotometers.

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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Dr. John Writes: The Advantages of Open Standards in Packaging


As I travel around the U.S. and Canada, I have the privilege of talking to customers with a very wide range of packaging applications, and I continue to hear from them how important it is to have choice in their investment decisions, their workflow being one of them. No one wants to be told they have to use a specific solution or adhere to very strict standards—by any company-that’s just not conducive to maximum productivity. The reality is that every production environment is different and every customer has unique needs, and Kodak understands that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution and the need for open standards. So, in case you may have heard otherwise, I am here to tell you that the KODAK FLEXCEL NX System is an open solution that supports Kodak Workflow and third-party systems.

Now, having said that you will get maximum productivity and quality, when using the KODAK PRINERGY Workflow to drive your FLEXCEL NX System, a powerful combination that delivers impact in packaging print production.  PRINERGY Workflow 6.1 is built on open standards, and a number of new features make it an even more powerful solution for packaging. With its database-driven functionality, industry-leading automation capabilities, an improved web-based interface and easy job management tools, PRINERGY Workflow 6.1 is a fast-growing solution among packaging professionals.

The KODAK FLEXCEL NX Imager takes press-ready 1-bit TIFF files from any workflow and processes those files in the TIFF front end attached to the imager. The only requirement is that the 1-bit TIFF must be prepared at 2400×2400 dpi. To better maximize productivity and minimize waste, multiple files can be collated and laid out automatically or manually on a single FLEXCEL NX Plate. But no matter how you prepare the original design files, pretty much every open-standards workflow on the market can produce a suitable file for imaging with the FLEXCEL NX System.

Once the final production file is delivered to the TIFF front end, the real magic begins. The file is automatically prepared for the laser to image, applying award-winning KODAK DIGICAP NX Screening, and other pattern and screening features at 4800×2400 dpi, with no loss of imager speed or capacity. Absolutely every single FLEXCEL NX Plate is imaged in high definition using these 5×10 micron features.

When developing the FLEXCEL NX System, the decision to incorporate these capabilities directly into the imager was an intentional one—making it fully open as an imaging solution. By incorporating the differentiating features directly into the imager, Kodak is making it possible for customers to choose the best configuration for their needs.

Once the job is prepared and the data is rendered into square pixels in the digital 1-bit TIFF file, the FLEXCEL NX Imager is the only imager on the market using KODAK SQUARESPOT Imaging technology to reproduce each of the pixels in the digital file perfectly without error. The SQUARESPOT Laser is globally accepted as the leading imaging technology, with more than 20,000 SQUARESPOT Imaging Heads currently installed. To give you some perspective, there are just over 3,000 flexo CTP devices installed globally.

The unique platemaking process within the FLEXCEL NX System then transfers the imaged pixels to the final plate surface perfectly, truly pixel-for-pixel from the digital file to the plate. The ONLY way to transfer this image to the plate “pixel-for-pixel” is by using the FLEXCEL NX system, maintaining maximum data and full tonal range, while simplifying file preparation, proofing and printing. Also, using 2400 dpi uses 3X less data compared to 4000 dpi, resulting in savings in terms of file preparation, processing, imaging, and storage space.

So now you know, Kodak’s flexo platemaking solution is an open one. To fully optimize your FLEXCEL NX system, we recommend PRINERGY Workflow for its unique, innovative capabilities that drive maximum productivity and quality. 

Dr. John’s Contact Information:

John-Anderson-AugFor anyone who does want to email me, please use john.anderson3@kodak.com and please don’t miss out the number 3 in the address, or you will reach another John Anderson in Kodak manufacturing!

Have a wonderful day,
Dr. John

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Filed under Packaging, Plate Technology, Printing

Exposure Bulb Tips

FlexoGuide-600by Catherine Green†, All Printing Resources

Why should I replace my bulbs if they still illuminate?

nyloflex-FIII-Combi-300x300UV-A and UV-C exposure bulbs lose output intensity over time. The gases inside the bulb become inert, resulting in longer start up time while the UV output diminishes. This results in longer, inconsistent exposure times.

If you have an integrator on your exposure unit you may not be aware of the change because the integrator compensates for the difference. We suggest a weekly test of the number of seconds that correspond to the number of units for your standard exposure. This will enable you to determine how much strength your bulbs have lost. If you do not have an integrator, we suggest doing a weekly exposure test using your own test image or one supplied by your plate supplier. This image should contain all of the standard elements needed to properly evaluate the plate. These include, various screen tints, isolated dots, lines, type, solids and reverses. By using the same exposure time each time and saving the last test plate for comparison you will be able to see any noticeable change in your exposure times. The most efficient method to test your bulbs is to use a UV-A meter. This unit reads the bulb intensity and produces a numerical reading. You can record the readings and determine when your bulbs need to be replaced. It is widely recommended to replace your bulbs once they reach 10mW/cm2 or below, although this number can be higher for high-LPI work and HD Flexo.

A note about exposing HD Flexo plates:

Esko recommends UV-A output no lower than 18 mW/cm2 for all HD Flexo plate exposures. We have found that this guideline can vary depending on the photopolymer used. The APR Technical Solutions Group can assist you with specific questions (Contact us).

When you first turn on the power to your equipment (cold start), it provides high voltage until the bulbs light. This strains the starting circuitry, power supply and the quartz (glass) of the bulbs. If you allow excessive start time to the cold start and exposures with old lamps you risk equipment failure.

Unreliable and inconsistent bulbs can cause re-makes and wasted material. We suggest bulbs be replaced before they burn out. Save a few of your old ones as temporary replacements. When replacing bulbs, replace all of them at the same time. This will give you quicker exposure times and your equipment will operate at maximum efficiency.

How can I get the maximum usage from my bulbs?

Here are a few simple steps to get the most from your investment in new bulbs:

  • Use cotton gloves when installing new bulbs. If you clean them before use and install them using gloves you will avoid the oils from your fingers and other contaminants that can cause premature failure due to the high operating temperature in your exposing equipment.
  • Clean your bulbs on a regular basis to ensure the maximum reflected light.
  • Check the electrical contacts regularly for pitting or corrosion, which can cause arcing and failure of the bulb or equipment.
  • When installing new bulbs, apply pressure at the ceramic or metal ends never apply pressure to the quartz.
  • If your exposure unit has cooling fans and or filters, clean the blades, lubricate the motor bearings as needed, and check to make sure the fans are operating properly. The vents must be clean and free of any obstruction to allow for maximum ventilation and unrestricted airflow. Keeping your bulbs cool will improve their life.
  • Make sure that the bulbs you are using are the correct type for your equipment. Many units require specific spectral output. If you change types, make sure your equipment is compatible.
  • When you install new bulbs, record the date, life hours and bulb part number. This simple record will help you establish an effective maintenance and replacement schedule.

And lastly, don’t be intimidated by equipment manufacturers who insist you use only their brand of bulb. The bulb simply receives the output from the power supply, so it cannot harm your equipment. Just be certain to buy from a reliable supplier that will make sure you have the correct bulb for your equipment, and be able to help you should a problem arise.

As LED exposure technologies become more popular, it is important to note the difference between these technologies and bank light systems. LED systems have variable output, so the light intensity can be easily controlled and adjusted. Also, LEDs are temperature-controlled and instantly light to full power, so there is almost no variation in the exposure process. APR represents both Esko’s Inline UV exposure solutions, as well as Flint Group’s NExT flat-top LED exposure technology.

† Based on an article originally written by Larry Dingman in November of 2002, updated in August of 2014 by Catherine Green.

For more information, contact us using this link. Also, read this related article by Catherine Green on our TSG Blog: UVA Light Sources Exposed.

About the TSG:

We have formed our Technical Solutions Group to encompass our full range of expertise in all critical areas of the flexo process. This team is made up of industry professionals dedicated to being up to date on new technologies, armed with the last in diagnostic tools, and experienced in problem solving that can achieve sustainable results. The TSG have walked in your shoes, and has felt your pain. For any specific questions about determining plate wear through reflectivity readings and 3D color mapping or assistance in determining your plate wear pass/fail limits, please feel free to contact us.

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Are You Doing Trials or Just Getting Doctor Blade Samples?

FlexoConcepts-logoBy Flexo Concepts

Doctor Blade Supplier Assisting with a Blade Trial

Doctor Blade Supplier Assisting with a Blade Trial

How many times have you requested a box of this or a sample of that and had a winner right away?  When testing a new product, the chances of success go way up with a little communication between the customer and the supplier.  It’s no different with doctor blades.  Like other parts of the printing process, investing a little time and effort in a doctor blade trial vs. sampling will improve your odds of finding the best blade for your application.

Sampling vs. Trialing

There are two ways to test a new doctor blade:  a sample and a doctor blade trial.  The critical difference is the information that is exchanged between you and your doctor blade supplier.  While both offer the chance for you to try something new, a trial greatly increases your probability of success.


If you’ve ever requested a doctor blade sample, you probably submitted your request through the company’s website, waited several days, and received your new blade samples in the mail.  They may have sat on your desk for a while until you were reminded of the reason you requested the samples in the first place and installed them in your press.  If you were lucky, the blades worked well and you proceeded with your first order.

If you’re like most companies, however, several rounds of sampling are needed to find a good fit.  This requires sustained effort and patience on your part.  With doctor blades, a different blade material, thickness or tip may be needed, and you keep your fingers crossed that you will eventually happen upon a winning combination.


An alternative to sampling a new blade is a doctor blade trial.  When you perform a blade trial, your odds of finding the right product go up significantly.  Through communication and participation in a production run, the supplier acquires key information about your process.  This information is used to zero in on the ideal product for your application and shortens your path to finding the right doctor blade.

Doctor Blade Trial Process:

1. Initiation of Blade Trial – You request a blade trial from your doctor blade supplier.  The supplier will take the time to learn about your process and ask questions regarding your press and application:

    • Press type
    • Press speed
    • Run length
    • Print type
    • Anilox line screen
    • Chamber type
    • Substrate
    • Ink type
    • Problems such as ink spitting, streaking

The supplier will then make a recommendation and supply doctor blades for a production run.

2. Production Run – The blade supplier will be on site to observe the production run.  He will confirm all of the information gathered about the application, verify that the blades have been installed correctly, make sure there is proper chamber alignment and help make adjustments if necessary.  The results of the run will be documented along with any challenges faced by the press operators.

3. Analysis and Evaluation – Following the production run, the used blades are returned to the supplier’s facility where the engineering department is engaged to do a complete evaluation.  The engineering team will assess the worn blades and look at how much wear has occurred, the contact length of the worn area and the contact angle of the blade.  These findings will reveal how the blade performed on press.  By looking at the wear patterns, the engineers can also determine whether the chamber was aligned to the anilox roll, if the blades were positioned properly and if there was too much pressure on the chamber.  A complete report containing these results is provided to you.  These results may be used to make improvements to your current process.

4. Feedback and Recommendation – After the blades are analyzed by the engineering department, the blade supplier will either confirm that the blades were successful in the application or recommend a different blade based on the results (such as different blade material, thickness or tip configuration).  Having taken the time to gather all important information about the press and application, the supplier will be able to provide the doctor blade that maximizes press efficiency and resolves any issues he was experiencing.

For people willing to roll the dice and be patient until finding the right product, sampling is a reasonable way to search for a better doctor blade.  However, to shorten the process of finding the best blade for your application, taking the time to conduct a doctor blade trial is the way to go.  For a small commitment of time and resources up front, the payoff is substantial in terms of saving time and money in the long run.

Request a TruPoint Doctor Blade Trial | Request a TruPoint Doctor Blade Sample

FlexoConcepts-logoAbout Flexo Concepts

Headquartered in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Flexo Concepts manufactures TruPoint doctor blades, the TruPoint QuikWash™ System and wash-up blades, and MicroClean™ dry media anilox cleaning systems.  All products are designed to improve print quality and reduce operational costs for flexographic and offset printers.  Flexo Concepts maintains distribution locations in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.  For more information about the company and its products visit www.flexoconcepts.com.

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Elimination of Gear Banding with Open-Cell Mounting Tape

By Rogers Corporation

Banding in tonal areas is a common problem for many printers, especially in the narrow-web industry. These bands of alternating high and low ink density are shown below.  This defect has many causes including, machine vibration as well as image layout on the plate.

In order to eliminate this problem, we recommend using open-cell urethane cushion mounting tape to provide unequaled energy absorption that eliminates the banding defect in most situations. Compared to closed-cell polyethylene foam mounting tapes, open-cell better prevents plate bounce and dissipates vibration resulting in noticeably more uniform tonal areas.

Still not convinced? A simple ball drop demonstration shows a dramatic difference between these two different types of mounting tapes and how they handle impact energy. This difference can improve your print quality.

Ball Drop Video:

About Rogers Corporation

rogersRogers Corporation is a global leader in engineered materials to power, protect, and connect our world.  With more than 180 years of materials science experience, Rogers delivers high-performance solutions that enable clean energy, internet connectivity, advanced transportation and other technologies where reliability is critical.  Rogers delivers Power Electronics Solutions for energy-efficient motor drives, vehicle electrification and alternative energy; High Performance Foams for sealing, vibration management and impact protection in mobile devices, transportation interiors, industrial equipment and performance apparel; and Printed Circuit Materials for wireless infrastructure, automotive safety and radar systems. Headquartered in Connecticut (USA), Rogers operates manufacturing facilities in the United States, China, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, and South Korea, with joint ventures and sales offices worldwide. http://www.rogerscorp.com/

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