Who wouldn’t like to find the key component in his company that could cut his costs in half? When printing houses come up with the question of how to save money, the topic of "Ink Saving" keeps coming up.
That's not new, and many printers have already gained experience with appropriate software solutions. But it’s not just any software, although often similar results are promised. It pays to look twice and challenge the field tests that were done a few years ago with first generation Ink Saver tools.
Colour expert CGS has devoted a lot of attention to ink saving and continues to expand on the technology: "In the past, ink was to be saved with ink saving software and costs reduced as a result, and that was that. Today, significantly more factors are included in the calculation of optimal total ink coverage, and we achieve much more than ink reduction, namely the optimization of print results and of the entire production process," said Andrew McIntyre of CGS.
The fact that this works reliably can be seen in extensive tests over a wide variety of customers. As a rule, ink savings of around 20 percent are achieved on average. Of course, this depends on various factors, such as the artwork, the printing application, the substrate and the printing machine itself.
This shows in practice that in some cases up to 50 and 60 percent of the inks can be reduced – without the expense of quality. On the contrary, image details can now be visible that were not discernible before. In other cases, though, e.g. in textile printing, ink savings are not yet as great.
Other quality improvements from ink saving are more image contrast, less ink show-through and more abrasion resistance due to the lower amount of ink. For many customers these effects are the main reason for deciding on Ink Saver software.
"Another great advantage is that post-press finishing is made easier and quicker by the reduction of ink cracking across folds. This is especially important for packaging printers,” added McIntyre, commenting on customer feedback. In addition, a reduction in ink quantity means a more green, eco-friendly, system – not an insignificant point where UV inks are concerned.
"We’ve also received feedback that the necessary UV intensity to dry the prints can be reduced, which means extended UV lamp life. The same is also true for print heads, they are rarely replaced."
The figure shows a test print on a DURST Rho P10 200 and basically illustrates the general mode of operation of Ink savings: Expensive CMY inks are reduced, i.e. dark parts of the images previously generated by CMY are replaced by black (K). The software algorithm is key to the operation here. Visible are perfect inks that are far more stable than before, a truly neutral grey and more detail and depth in the images.
In the high-speed inkjet sector a significant benefit is that drying times are reduced, allowing faster machine speeds and more throughput which, in return, means more customer jobs.
"If you are operating in three shifts, for example on an HP Page Wide Web Press T240, with 10 percent of ink saving, that automatically means 10 percent higher production speed due to faster drying times, without any loss of quality. Over a twelve-month period, that gives you 5 additional weeks of production time,” McIntyre said.
If print shops want to invest in Ink Saver solutions, it is also advisable to make sure that the software can be integrated into their existing workflow and be easy to use or, even better, have automated set-up procedures that allow different employees with different skill sets to be able to operate the software flawlessly.
There are many positive effects that can be achieved with the right Ink Saver software that go far beyond reducing ink usage. Greater profit margins and the ability to react to price pressure in the marketplace are important benefits in an ever increasingly challenging printing environment.
First published in Issue 12/2019 of Print Innovation Asia.