G7 Color Strategy Paves The Path to Reinvention

Koenig and Bauer Builds New Automation Into Commercial Offset Presses

by Sean O'Leary

Two centuries after the establishment of Schnellpressenfabrik Koenig & Bauer in Würzburg, Germany, corporate management at the world’s oldest printing press manufacturer initiated a yearlong “pause to assess”. This process was intended to determine strategies Koenig and Bauer would develop in response to the colossal evolution of the global printing industry. In the course of projecting the company’s pioneering worldview into a new century, what smart technologies would be required to respond to the rapidly changing topography of Printing 4.0?

The result is a series of new automation tools designed to empower commercial offset printers to reinvent themselves in a world growing more digital every day.

“As commercial printers are faced with shorter run lengths and faster turnaround times, our customers are looking for new offset press configurations that will enable them to print on the widest range of substrates and with the highest quality, all while being able to be sure of profitability,” noted Eric Frank, Senior VP Marketing and Product Management. ”

In a nutshell, Koenig & Bauer’s latest set of innovations are intended to help commercial printers be competitive printing short runs on conventional offset presses.

New G7 Color Solutions Operate In a Gray Area

High on the list of these developments has been the incorporation of two closed-loop on-press color control systems, designed to automate key areas of color control. Both the Instrument Flight Color Control by System Brunner and Koenig & Bauer’s QualityPass (v8) are G7 certified by Idealliance, an international organization of printers, publishers and technology vendors focused on improving workflow.

G7 has emerged as a convincing color management standard, based on gray balance rather than traditional L*a*b calibration methods. The G7 standard balances cyan, magenta and yellow to a neutral gray. Because it is conceived to be device independent, the G7 protocol is especially suited for the current production environment which often requires branded printed material from different output sources to match. In practice, G7 offers a numerical method to help printers validate color control, with the objective of creating a more consistent printing condition across different printing machines, printing technologies and materials.

Instrument Flight monitors and controls production press runs in accordance with G7 gray balance and tonality specifications. In this context, the color control system represents a departure from traditional methods of offset printing color management. It moves beyond standard calibration processes and provides an integrated color management protocol from prepress to pressroom, by monitoring and controlling gray balance and facial tonality on press. Color data is measured throughout the print run and backed by real time process quality analysis. The technology is also able to check dot gain, solid ink density and other parameters. Real time process diagnostics and quality rating alerts press operators during print production should they miss target specifications.

According to Chris Travis, Director of Technology for Koenig & Bauer (US): “Many systems measure but Instrument Flight controls. The technology uses inline color control to automatically dial in color consistency and helps commercial printers get up to customer color expectations faster than anything in the market, it measures and controls to grey balance.”

Operating in tandem with Instrument Flight, Version 8 of QualityPass provides a range of reports to optimize print quality analyzation. QualityPass is equipped with a trend reporting function for sheet fed printers that allows them to document color consistency across a production run. The utility also generates PDFs that can be shared with customers. The reports incorporate every measurement taken by either the ErgoTronic Color Control device or the QualiTronic ColorControl inline system, enabling the operator to analyze job performance. This data can is intended to enhance future scoring by indication adjustments such as tensioning blankets or making alterations to plate output curves.

“Ultimately, we are convinced that our G7 driven work flow improves efficiencies, quality, gets to grey balance quicker than any other option on the market and then keeps it at grey balance over the course of the run,” notes Travis.

Achieving Full Autonomy

As Koenig & Bauer’s third century launches into a newly emerging paradigm, the company continues to introduce and develop a line up of new drying and automation technologies for the commercial offset printer. ErgoTronic AutoRun technology is proving particularly effective for commercial printers who need to turn around a series of short run jobs seamlessly. The system automatically initiates job changeover as soon as a print run concludes. Makeready and production, color and register control are fully integrated, allowing the operators to move from job to job without touching the press. The system further reduces down time by initiating simultaneous processes such as cleaning blankets and cleaning plates.

Finally, the company has implemented an upgradable drying strategy that allows commercial printers to incorporate new drying technologies at their own pace. The modular strategy is designed to take printers from conventional to UV to LED as painlessly as possible.

“When you get down to it, the way forward is pretty clear,” said Frank by way of summary. “As margins grow tighter for commercial offset printers, we need to continue to help our customers find efficiencies in their operation that enable them to compete in a crowded marketplace that is going to remain crowded and be able to offer unique processes such as grey balance and LED UV.”

What About Profitability?

What about Profitability?
Offset yields new advantages

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