Tools of the trade for screen printers
By Gail Flower
ColorFormulator MCF comprises a spectrophotometer (either portable or stationary) with software and database designed for screen and pad printing. With this tool you measure the original, preselect the substrate, ink-film thickness, opacity and basic shades, and calculate this into numbers and save the formula in the printer’s own database. The spectrophotometer reads match colors and the added information helps optimize a formula to remove variation.
MixMasters, Inc., offers The MixMaster, Jr. 2.0 for making any color in the Pantone guide. MixMaster 4.0 allows for Pantone formulations as well as adding new custom color formulations with as many as 15 ingredients to be added to the database. 4.0 includes tracking cost of inventory, estimating ink requirements, sharing of data, automatic recycling of inks from inventory each time a printer makes a batch.
Nazdar supplies ink-management software systems under the name ColorStar (Figure 4).
“We have three levels,” says Roger Jensen, color-management technician. “The basic system (ColorStar Pro 2.0) has all of our Pantone formulas in all of our ink lines that contain a Pantone ink-matching series. This software allows for creation and storage of custom formulas, as well as the scaling to any batch size in both U.S. and metric weights or volumes. The ColorStar Manager builds on the basic software with inventory control and tracking.”
ColorStar Manager also features job costing, production control, and several reporting functions. The CheckWeigh System has the functions of the other two programs, but it also features complete PC hardware and a Mettler-Toledo scale. The software adjusts for overweighs and recalculates the ink amounts for the corrections.
PolyOne Corp.’s mixing technologies are geared to creating custom ink colors using the company’s Wilflex ink products. Wilflex has three color mixing systems: the MX system (finished ink), the Equalizer system (hybrid colorant and base), and the PC Express (original pigment and base system). Built for use with the company’s color mixing systems and ink-management software (IMS), which is free as a download from their Website. IMS is also available packaged with the ink-mixing-system starter kit. IMS formulas are for standard coated and uncoated Pantone simulations using plastisol mixing systems. IMS provides formulas, forecasts ink usage, creates and stores job specs, prints multiple formulas as reports or labels, does VOC reporting, and can be linked to a scale—the company’s Sartorious (7500-g capacity) or AccuLab (1500-g capacity), for example.
A user accesses the IMS software from the company’s web site or from a disc. Once installed, the user sets up individual preferences by going to Tools, User Set Up. Next preferences are saved. By selecting a PMS-numbered formula from the specific mixing system, amounts are pre-determined. It also allows for customized formulas to meet production color match specifications. Volumes are specified in grams, kilograms, and gallons.
The company also offers the DispenseMaster 4 (Figure 5), an automatic dispensing system used to create quart, gallon, or 5-gal quantities of custom inks. It mixes colors, controls ink inventory, and supports a color palette with customized formulas.
Rutland Plastic Technologies, Inc. supplies the M2007 Ink Mixing Software, which features 42,000 recipes for Pantone, major brand colors, and stock colors, says Tony Chapman, Rutland’s director of technical services. The latest version of M2007 is 1.6. It has all of Rutland’s environmental ink series, including all Claira and WB-99 formulations. If the color you are matching isn’t in the list, simply add a name, description, and formula for reproducing it in the M2007 software. Price, VOC, and density, and the maximum allowed are calculated automatically based on the ingredients and amounts chosen.
VALE-TECH offers the Integra 2, an ink-mixing station that comes with a solid-state PC, solvent-resistant polyester keypad, TFT monitor, and a scale. Features include scale self-calibration, base-color and recipe management, recipe creation and editing, overweigh recalculation, blend re-works, job-usage reporting, batch-number traceability, and more. Its operating software runs on a Windows platform and is available in 12 languages.
Bring the right tools into the mix
The difference between an acceptable print job and one that delights a customer often relies on the skill of the printer; therefore, any tool that improves a printer’s color-matching capability—whether the latest software, an up-to-date PMS matching book, a spectrophotometer, or automated mixing/dispensing system—and any science that can help control subjectivity will improve the process of custom color matching.
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