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Matching the ink to the job

Graphics | March 1, 2013 | By:

The best printer and fabric in the world will not produce acceptable results if the ink doesn’t match the job and the specifications. This new column is designed to find out what best practices are found in the industry and what advice can be gleaned about inks and their applications. We asked a number of experts a series of questions; here are some of their comments.

Q: What guidelines should be used to identify the correct ink for a specific job?

“When you buy a printer,” says Greg Lamb, CEO of PrinterEvolution (Louisville, Colo.), “you are not just buying hardware, but the entire package—what it is capable of producing at the end of the day. Ink is a huge part of this. And ink also is part of the sustainability statement that any company makes. Buyers have to consider oil, water, solvent or UV. A water-based ink will give the best environmental aspect as well as the deepest blacks available. Solvent and oil tend to be a bit muddy in the black. Water-based inks can address color accuracy as well as environmental positioning.”

“EPMs may want to consider dedicating a printer to a specific ink formulation,” says John Lutzke, IT manager at Banner Creations (Minneapolis, Minn.), “since it can be a time-consuming process to change out inks. Pigment inks will not have the color range of dye inks so if a print shop does a lot of photography printing then dye is the way to go.”

Q: How can EPMs verify the ink manufacturer’s claims?

“In a perfect world,” says Lutzke, “we want to trust our vendors but with so much money at stake it is best to ‘trust but verify’ as the famous Russian proverb goes. One way is to choose inks with warranties like 3M offers. When a warranty is not offered, then third-party testing is an option.”

“The ink manufacturers do extensive testing and can provide the tests and results upon request,” says Lamb. “There are a couple types of claims: light fastness or environmental hazards. End users should either ask for the light fastness tests or MSDS for the environmental hazard claims. All of the information is there.”

Q: How can EPMs best verify the quality of these inks to their clients?
How do they best market these to their clients?

“For the eco-conscious customer,” says Lutzke, “the best inks will be water-based with low VOCs. For the rest of the customer base simply explaining the benefits of a wide color gamut can be enough to sway them to trust you with their graphics for print.”

“With PrinterEvolution Evo33 water-based colors,” says Lamb,
“we can print a file as a 4-color print, then print the file with Orange
and Violet only to see where those colors will affect the final print.
Then as a final, we print the file as a 4-color plus O and V so the customer
can see the results from this unique six color set.”

General advice

“There is more to evaluating ink, color and quality than just the ink itself. Ink heads are a huge part of the equation,” says Lamb. “Manufacturers may set their ink limits very high. Make sure that whomever you are buying from is savvy enough to reset those ink limits to what is acceptable to you to maximize your ink investment. For example, if you ran your CMYK at 100 percent (no one would ever do this) the ink limit value would then equal 400. Many manufacturers set their ink limit to approximately 270, which is roughly 70 percent of each color. You may choose to reduce your ink limit to closer to 52 percent. It is a matter of finding the right mix of quality and performance.”

Mason Riddle is a freelance writer based in St. Paul, Minn.

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