Advancements and concerns in digital printing

ImageDigital proofing has reached a new level of acceptance and maturity, and service providers and customers now view an inkjet proof as the new standard. There are a number of reasons for this shift in proofing methods. The first is simply time—it takes a while for a new technology to be adopted and accepted. Secondly, and more importantly, inkjet proofing is now offering a proof that is as good or better than a traditional analog proof.

How has inkjet proofing matured?
We can attribute the maturity and subsequent industry acceptance of inkjet proofing to a number of factors. Inkjet printers have improved greatly in their ability to put ink on paper. They are now faster, offer smaller droplet sizes, have smoother blends with the use of light inks, and—for the most part—require a lot less maintenance than they used to.

I still find Epson machines a pain when it comes to clogged nozzles, as they can be very unpredictable in this area. The good news is that they are no longer the only choice. Canon has brought to market a line of inkjet printers that are better than Epson’s. I realize that the preceding sentence is a bold statement, but it is true. I have been working with Canon printers for six months and I have not had to clean the nozzles once—they just keep working and they are fast!

My concern with Epson printers is that they do not handle the problem of clogged nozzles properly. Instead of addressing the problem of a clogged nozzel, they often continue to print regardless of how many or how few nozzles are firing.

Let’s band together to eliminate banding.
If you are using an Epson Printer for proofing, you need to know how to do a simple nozzle check. On the latest X800 line of printers, the nozzle check will automatically clean the nozzles if it determines that any of them are clogged, but the nozzle check itself needs to be initiated by the user. Although it’s a pain to check and find nothing wrong, this quality control check needs to be run at the beginning of every shift!

There are two types of banding—dark and white. Dark banding is normally caused by an overlap of the printing head as it passes back and forth. This is seen at lower resolutions and when ink is laid down in both directions (bi–directional printing). For example, 720 x 720 dpi bi–directional printing on an EPSON will often produce a proof with slight dark banding in solid colours. This type of banding is often a distance of  3–5 mm apart.

White banding is the result of a clogged or misfiring nozzle. The problem gets more complicated when a light ink nozzle is clogged. It is almost impossible to see any banding when a light ink head becomes clogged, but the colours of your proof will look very different than they are intended to.

The rapid improvement in inkjet technology means that inkjet printers can now produce a proof that is equal to or better than a traditional proof, but we need to stay on top of our devices. Regular nozzle checks are essential to efficient and effective inkjet proofs.   

Angus Pady is the president of Digital Solutions. Complete colour control from desktop to press. T: 905.764.6003