This blog was originally posted in 2016. We wanted to re-release it to the people attending the FTA Show next week.
Print, despite the widespread proliferation of the internet, is still an essential form of communication for just about every activity in modern society.
People need printing to create descriptive packaging for products on shelves. People need printing for the signs they read, the pamphlets and brochures they reference to make purchasing decisions, even the business cards handed out to make new business contacts.
Print, in other words, is still vital, and, thanks to new advances in printing technology, more vibrant and expressive than ever before. This new versatility in printing comes to us courtesy of two major advances; better printing technology, and a better understanding of managing ink.
Variation Hurts Your Bottom Line
The goal of printing—as it is in any industrial, mass production activities—is to create large volumes of product that are identical in quality via means that are both time efficient and cost effective. This means that you, or your clients come to a printing service with the hope for a good price on a print run that effectively churns out the numbers required.
Color variations are one of the big headaches that any printer faces, and for good reason. When a client approaches a printer for a large volume of books, cards, pamphlets, or packaging, they are expecting consistency. The last product that rolls off the printing press has to look just like the first one, and all the others in between.
Variations in color or definition destroy this branding consistency, and can often lead to an unhappy client that will insist on a new set of prints that meet expectations. And that can sometimes be the best case scenario. Far worse outcomes, such as lost business and minuscule (or nonexistent) profits are common.
In these cases, the customer is most definitely right: If you are unable to provide a consistent print run, it is your hurdle to overcome.
Getting More Control
Variation in print occurs as a result of changes to the ink as it is applied to your printing surface. Under ideal conditions, the primary factor affecting ink consistency is the viscosity. When ink viscosity changes, this invites many potential variations, from the color itself to the actual quality of the dots printed.
Viscosity is controlled in one of two ways. Solvent is the traditional ingredient added to ink to control viscosity, but many solvents are alcohol or ammonia based, meaning that they immediately start evaporating on contact with air, and this evaporation is accelerated by heat, both of which are present in many printing processes. This means that solvents, while solving a problem, can create more problems as they produce more waste and add to process costs.
The Temperature Solution
Viscosity, however, is not just controlled by adding more chemicals, it can also be maintained by controlling the temperature, especially at the point of application. In fact, it is variations in temperature that often play a major role in affecting both the viscosity of the ink itself, and the durability of the solvents added.
By keeping the temperature of the ink stable, less solvent is required to maintain a consistent viscosity. Once you achieve that consistency in viscosity, you can enjoy longer, more reliable and more consistent print runs, with an effective reduction in color and quality variations that would require more time and labor to correct.
If you or your clients are having difficulty with too much color variation appearing in your prints, it may not be a problem of adding more solvents, but exercising better temperature control.
Ensure you are maintaining ideal viscosity in your printing process. Get your free copy of our Viscosity Control Buyer's Guide to learn about the tools you can use to achieve consistent viscosity.