Learn about the various programs that ink manufacturers offer for tracking, mixing, and organizing inks and find out what improvements have occurred since our last review of ink-management software in the May 2001 issue of Screen Printing magazine.
By Lori Leaman
"Do I have a recipe for that color recorded somewhere? Do I have the inks I need to create that color? Can I match that color and deliver the job on time?" These are the kind of panic-induced questions you may often face in your shop when a customer calls with a rush order that requires a custom color.
You could avoid this frightening scenario by having custom colors premixed by your ink manufacturer, but you'd likely face minimum order quantities, slow turnaround, and extra costs. So that leaves just one option: mixing inks in house. However, to enjoy efficiency and economy from mixing inks yourself, your inkroom has to be well organized and correctly operated.
The keys to a well managed ink department are accurate ink-mixing records and detailed usage information that allow you to create correct colors time and time again and maintain the right inventory for your production volume. Ink-management software can be invaluable in helping you achieve both of these goals.
Today's ink-management software provides features for storing and recalling mixing formulas, estimating ink-volume requirements, monitoring ink inventories, tracking ink expenditures, and more. This article provides an overview of these general functions and details the specific attributes of programs currently offered by industry suppliers.
Formula retrieval and calculation
You can eliminate much of the time, stress, guesswork, and potential for human error that comes with in-house ink mixing by allowing the brains of an ink-management program to calculate the amount of each mixing component you need. On all programs, you begin by calling up the desired color from a database of formulations.
Color formulations are based on specific color-matching ink series offered by the ink manufacturer that supplies the software. Many of the ink lines supported are Pantone licensed, which means the colors they produce correspond to colors from the Pantone color-matching guide. However, ink-management programs also allow users to store custom-color formulations created with any ink system.
When a particular color code is selected, the programs list the component inks that are mixed to achieve the selected color. Most programs also provide fields for inputting additional information, such as the number of prints that will be produced using the color, print area per piece, ink coverage area, mesh count/thread diameter, and other details. You may also be able to select the measurement units in which mixing components and total batch size are displayed.
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