Fri, Nov

Tap into ink savings

How a more efficient approach to colour management can dramatically boost your environmental credentials and bottom line by cutting ink use and waste.

Somehow we seem to have assumed that being environmentally friendly is going to cost us more. This idea is so endemic to the way we think that green policies have become one of the biggest casualties of the current economic crisis. Yet one of the biggest threats to our planet’s health is the sheer amount of waste that we all produce. It’s no surprise that reducing waste is also a pretty good way of increasing profit margins.

Paper is the biggest source of C02 across the print industry as a whole so reducing the amount of paper waste and sourcing stock from sustainable sources is a good place to start implementing an environmental policy. In the wide-format industry the problem is even more acute given the sort of substrates in use, particularly the wide variety of plastics that are hard to recycle and typically end up in landfill sites.

Industry experts agree that anywhere between 25 and 40% of actual output is waste, with jobs reprinted on a trial and error basis to produce a satisfactory colour directly on the large-format printer using the final substrate. Considering the cost of these substrates, that’s an enormous chunk out of any display printer’s bottom line, not to mention a serious environmental hazard.

The obvious solution to all of this is a good colour management strategy, so that you can print to any substrate, from any printer, and be sure that the first attempt will match the proof the client signed off. Not only will this reduce the media wasted, but it will also cut down on the amount of ink wasted as well as the energy used and the wear and tear on the machines. Moreover, it can free up valuable press time, allowing the machines to realise their true productivity, rather than having to keep printing the same job until it comes out right.

Cutting down on the ink you use (and potentially waste) is not only good ‘green’ practice but good business practice. A good colour management system will also help you cut down on the amount of ink you use in the first place and this can have a dramatic impact on your bottom line. You can go a step further with a dedicated workflow program, which will tighten up the whole production process for ‘right first time’ prints, eliminating waste at all stages.

GMG ProductionSuite, for example, includes a wizard-driven way of building profiles, which uses 4-D colour technology for proofing quality output. There’s an iterative re-calibration function to ensure that all your devices reproduce the same colours as each other, on every media, and without drifting over time. GMG takes a different approach to most vendors, using its own device linking technology rather than ICC colour management. Simon Landau at GMG says that this approach allows for CMYK to CMYK transformations without having to go through the LAB colour space as with ICC profiles, giving much tighter control over individual colours.

This has given rise to EcoSave, a useful feature that reduces the amount of ink laid down, without compromising the image quality. While conventional ICC-based colour management offerings can also save ink, device link media profiles go further, reducing ink consumption on average by 20%. This is because the device link profiles are built around a neutral black, giving a great deal of control over the desired colours. The profiles contain advanced algorithms but the real benefit is that the colours can be mapped direct to the final colour space without any intermediate step.

Gardners, for example, has seen a significant benefit from using GMG ProductionSuite. Based in Cardiff, Gardners is one of the largest wide format printers in Europe producing some 300,000m2/month. It is one of HP’s biggest customers with three flatbed, 20 roll-to-roll and three small-format printers, mixing different print technologies. It relies on ProductionSuite to deliver consistent colours across all these devices, irrespective of substrate. But Gardners has also found that ProductionSuite's EcoSave option has cut the £1.3 million it spends every year on ink by 18%!

This kind of saving not only pays for the initial investment into the ProductionSuite software, but also continually adds to the bottom line year after year. The overall reduction in waste through getting the colours right first time is a tangible step towards really benefiting the environment, something that can be easily demonstrated to customers, who are themselves often under pressure to prove their suppliers’ green credentials.


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