Image of Trend Graph SpotOn! Verify

How Working With Trends In Verification Software Can Help Control Printing Devices

In our last blog post, we talked about how process control should never stop in your color management strategy. We explained that it’s just as important to maintain your printer’s profile as it is to maintain the printer itself.

To create and maintain a profile, you must incorporate two things into your process: a measuring instrument and some kind of verification software like our SpotOn! Verify to validate the profile.

But how does that work?

Following The Trend

 After you create a profile for your printing device, SpotOn! Verify allows you to measure and validate a control strip printed from your device using the new profile. That measurement is compared to a specified target such as GRACoL® 2013. By comparing the profile to a target, we can verify the accuracy of the calibration and ICC profile.

Another thing that verification software can do is save these measurements so users can track the performance of their devices over time. If you notice that your color is starting to drift, you don’t necessarily have to re-profile your printing device. Instead, you can print the chart, measure it and again compare it against your target. If it’s drifted too far away from that target, then you might consider re-profiling the printer.

Image of Trend Graph SpotOn! Verify

The Answer Is In Consistent Reporting

SpotOn! can also show you how your most recent measurement compares to previous measurements through trend reports. Showing the trend of the printer’s performance over time can help in the overall maintenance of the printing device and help you decide when it’s time to re-calibrate and/or re-profile.

Measuring printer consistency should be developed into a daily routine. The more frequently you measure, the easier it is to understand the behavior of your printing devices and track their consistency over time.

In this way, you are actually taking control and managing your devices rather than being surprised that what you printed last month doesn’t look the same today.  You can’t manage anything if you aren’t taking measurements and evaluating the results.

Image of hands of car driver on steering wheel, road trip, driving on hig

I like to use driving your car as an easy to understand analogy. Keeping your car in its lane is like keeping your printing devices printing consistently.

When customers ask how frequently they should measure their printing device’s consistency, I ask them how long they can close their eyes while driving down the road. I know that’s a bit extreme; but the concept is still the same.

If you want to stay on the road, you have to pay attention to where the car is at all times. If you want your printing devices to print consistently, you have to pay attention (take measurements and analyze the results) on a regular basis. Maybe you don’t have to do this as frequently as you do driving a car, but at least daily should be a bare minimum.

You have to decide how long you want to go without knowing if your devices are printing consistently. Define the frequency and make it a shop policy.

Image of Process Control

Process Control Never Stops In Color Management

Or More Appropriately, Process Control SHOULD Never Stop in Color Management

I had an instructor in a class I was taking say, “You can’t have color management without process control.” I thought about that for a bit and decided he was right.

One of the biggest constants in color management for printing is maintenance. The physical condition of the printer needs to be maintained. The environmental conditions of the printer need to be monitored. And of course, the profile of your printer needs constant process control if you want to achieve consistent and predictable color.

Image of Process Control

You Need A Strategy And Software Is Key

To create a profile and maintain a profile, you need two things: a measuring instrument and some kind of verification software to validate the profile. This is a huge part of process control.

SpotOn! Verify is a flexible powerful tool that helps you clearly define performance and control your print process. The Visual Match Scorecard shows you how visually consistent devices are, and the software provides tracking and trending data to help you print consistently over time.

Image of Bonnie Visual Match

So, Wait. What’s A Profile?

If you’re going to have a good color management strategy with process control, you need to understand what you’re trying to maintain.

A profile is a characterization of how a printing device prints at that moment in time when the profiling chart was printed. It takes into account all the variables that could affect printing such as environment, media, ink, substrate, print speed and resolution – again, at that moment in time.

Changing one of these variables can negatively affect the quality of printing. Therefore, the profile has to be maintained so that it can accurately do its job.

Process Control Through Verification

Let’s say you’ve created a profile for your printer that is giving you great quality print jobs. A couple of months later, you start to see that quality shift in the wrong direction.

Maybe you had to replace the ink or a printhead. Maybe you’re using a different brand of substrate than you were previously. Maybe the temperature or humidity changed in your printing environment.

What can you do?

Before you decide to re-profile the machine, it would probably be worth your time to print out a control strip, measure it against a specified target and use a verification software system to view the results. Many applications allow you to record the status of your printer over time.

By measuring charts and keeping a trend report, you are better able to see the results of how your printer is performing. You may find that the change you’re so worried about isn’t significant enough to warrant re-profiling the printer or you may find that it’s time to re-calibrate the machine.

If you do regular checkups on the profile of your printer and its performance through verification, you are using process control to maintain the condition of that printer.

In our next post, we will talk about how you can use those trending reports in verification software to control printing devices.

If you are interested in a demonstration of SpotOn! Verify, please contact us to schedule a time.