Graphic Visual Solutions (Graphic) was founded in 1985 and has steadily grown to become one of the most comprehensive, state-of-the-art printing, packaging, and imaging facilities in the Southeast. The company’s core capabilities include printed materials, labels and packaging, cross-media campaigns, wide-format graphics, direct mail marketing, fulfillment, logistics, and creative services.
A highly-talented team of employee-owners (the company is an ESOP) pride themselves on helping their customers manage their brands by uniquely reproducing exacting color across multiple product lines. This distinction separates Graphic from the competition and provides customers with visual communications that help promote their brands.
A long relationship with Agfa brought Graphic an opportunity to improve their operations qualitatively and positively impact their business. As a customer of Energy Elite Pro, a long run, low chemistry, no-bake plate, Graphic qualified to take part in the Agfa ECO³ program. ECO3 is a value-add solution combining hardware, software, and consumables to improve print quality and make printing operations cleaner, more cost-effective, and easier to operate.
For optimum results, Agfa proposed a trial of PressTune, a comprehensive print standardization tool, and InkTune, an ink optimization software. After installing PressTune, the Graphic team realized its robust process control and analytic capabilities and implemented it as a tool within their standard operating procedures.
Quick quality improvement
“PressTune gave immediate feedback on many different quality aspects within seconds of scanning a sheet,” explains Jack Brown, executive vice president of Graphic Visual Solutions. “It is helping us understand what is happening on the press sheet, rather than just looking at densities or evaluating color by eye. PressTune helps us see through the run and lets us know where we can make adjustments to improve quality.“
PressTune guarantees color consistency and ensures that printing jobs meet ISO, G7, client-specific, or other industry standards. It increases productivity by lowering ink and paper consumption through reduced make-ready times, while improving communication between the prepress operator, quality management, and print buyers.
Brown says the software is helping Graphic maintain G7 standards. PressTune contains powerful analytics capabilities based on lab values obtained through spectrophotometer measurement tools. The print and color data is collected directly from the printing press and enables the objective evaluation of printing jobs related to standards set by the print provider.
“The pressroom manager and the press operators themselves are always talking about the scores they are getting from the product,” says Brown. “Now our team is looking at numbers more than ever, and looking at factors on the press sheet we didn’t pay attention to before.”
PressTune offers scoring tools that allow more control across the print run. “The scoring is interesting,” Brown says. “You can achieve a score of up to 100, but what is more important than the score number is consistency. There may be a press sheet your scoring at 82 and that 82 score may represent readings that ultimately provide the sheet quality desired by the customer. Just because the score is an 82 vs. 100, doesn’t mean it’s not a successful sheet. The most important thing is that you’re consistently scoring an 82 throughout the press run. That is where the value of PressTune comes in.”
PressTune gathers data from all presses on the network, providing an easy to read dashboard for all stakeholders. It offers the ability to make decisions based on the dashboard readings.
“Whether grayscale or a trap, there are many factors that come into play and many aspects of that press sheet reported by PressTune,” says Brown. “The press operators can find the most crucial focus on that sheet, see what is causing the lower score, and then fix it. The software offers tools the pressman never had before. Even with multiple jobs done over multiple days, we can take that information from the press, and export it out as a curve. Then we can bring that curve to the prepress system and make an adjustment to our plate if we need to.”
“During customer plant tours, we show the PressTune diagnostic screen, and they are impressed that there is so much science and technology involved with our quality control and color management processes,” adds Brown. “Print buyers grasp how serious we are about quality, process control, color management, and being efficient.”
PressTune helps create the ideal environment for InkTune to reduce overall ink usage, but Graphic was hesitant to roll it out at first.
“At the start, we were very cautious about InkTune,” Brown admits. “You are essentially changing the files when you employ it. We wanted to make sure we knew what we were doing when we started testing. The test results were pretty darn good. We started utilizing it with some of our more demanding customers that come onsite for press OKs. Suddenly, the jobs that have numerous neutral images in them were coming up to color faster than ever before and it was easier to maintain that color during the press run. Any moves that may happen on the press with Gray Component Replacement (GCR) are affecting the end product result much less because of the dot.”
InkTune integrates into the prepress workflow. During the rendering process, the software guarantees that all transparencies are optimally fixed and provides an ideal environment for the GCR application. By using GCR, the software substitutes expensive CMY inks with more economical black ink. The technique offers better ink settings, less interference between different inks, high printing speeds, and faster drying time.
According to Brown, InkTune provides more true neutrals that are not affected by a color swing as with reds or greens that typically move the neutral areas. “Whether it’s photography or a specific type of commercial piece, if you evaluate it and see an area that should be gray, it’s off-putting if it looks red or green. With InkTune GCR, that gray remains gray throughout the run.”
InkTune is helping Graphic shorten press make-ready by stabilizing color tones and neutral gray balance. It applies less ink, improves ink settings, and reduces drying times, contributing to higher productivity.
Consistent press runs
Graphic can maintain color for extended periods on quality print runs featuring lots of neutrals. The pressroom became big fans because InkTune created GCR scenarios resulting in much more consistent print runs.
ECO3 is helping Graphic make decisions on press without wasting any time. Brown explains: “Gray balance is a big deal now. We can track the gray balance on any pull and see if we need adjustments. If we need to adjust, the program helps us know what adjustment we should make.”
Print buyers also are seeing a difference, according to Brown. “We have a meticulous customer that does onsite press approvals. They commented about how quickly we got up to color on a particular job because of all the neutrals involved. ECO³ made for a much smoother process.”
ECO3 is impressive
Since its inception, the mission of Graphic Visual Solutions is to be an indispensable resource for its clients. They trust Graphic to provide the most comprehensive visual marketing and business communications in the printing and graphic arts industry.
By adopting Agfa’s ECO3 software, the company is improving print quality while at the same time, making its printing operations more efficient and cost-effective. This valuable solution contributes to making Graphic the definitive source for printed materials among brand-conscious organizations demanding exacting color across multiple product lines.
Continually evaluating and embracing the latest print and graphic arts technologies is a smart business approach that is achieving higher standards for Graphic. Their commitment to quality and continual improvement is keeping them at the pinnacle of excellence.