Forum 2018 Session to Examine EG’s Capabilities, Appeal, Common Challenges
A decade in, expanded gamut (EG) has gone from making printers ask, “What are those three extra colors doing there?” to showing them how to do less with more; specifically, produce a large percent of the color spectrum with just seven inks while increasing productivity and decreasing costs. “Increasing productivity” and “decreasing costs” are two of the most-common requests from brand owners (especially at the beginning of a new year), so it’s no surprise that as EG has become more capable, it’s continued to gain industry acceptance not only by printers but also CPCs like Frito-Lay and Miracle-Gro.
Forum 2018’s “Expanded Gamut: Where Are We Now?” session will demonstrate what EG can do today, using a wide web, flexible packaging job as an example. In the session’s sole, hour-long presentation, Cyber Graphics’ Kevin Bourquin and John Q. Hite of The Bryce Co will explain how a prepress and print supplier used EG to help deliver packaging solutions that were not capable a decade years ago, and look at what may be possible in the future. Here, in conversation with FLEXO Magazine, Bourquin previews that presentation, titled “Mission Expanded Gamut: Better Together.”
FLEXO Magazine: Talk about the progress made by EG printing over the last 10 years. What’s changed about EG and how has brand owner perception changed with it?
Kevin Bourquin: By far, the level of consistency has improved dramatically. When EG was initially in development, we were still using conventionally exposed, standard-resolution digital plates. We were pushing the limits of what a process plate could really do: print a small dot consistently under the conditions of wide web and still transfer a smooth ink film. The industry suppliers did a great job responding to the pressure of what we needed to be more successful.
Today, we are utilizing finer-line anilox volumes, high-resolution imaging, micro-texturing (both in file prep and plate surfaces) as well as using a variety of methods to achieve flat top dots. All of this has enabled a more stable, consistent and predictable process with a larger gamut and higher quality for the brand owner. Brand owners who were once reluctant have started to migrate toward this technology because of the improvements, but it’s still not for every package design.
FLEXO: What are some of the challenges that come with utilizing EG? What are the benefits?
Bourquin: We prefer to call these challenges, opportunities. Communication and education become more important, especially when working with marketing and procurement inside a brand—They have different goals and are often not on the same page. We have also seen a need to move conversations about design further upstream to help prepare for the process and hide some of the deficiencies in how we approach graphic construction. This has opened up the door to allow designers to be freer with the use of colors, effects and imagery. However, brands can no longer tweak and design on press.
Regardless of how tight the timing is in prepress and print, we have to make all the adjustments to the files before ink is put on substrate. For the brand, we can better meet consumer demand by utilizing combo print opportunities while driving down some of the costs associated with inventory, minimum run quantities and makeready.
FLEXO: What does a trade shop have to do differently when dealing with an EG print job? How about a printer?
Bourquin: For the trade shop, more time needs to be put into understanding where and how color breaks will be managed. It can be difficult to predict exactly where a particular break will be and how that will impact the long-term quality of a given design. Being able to understand and predict the impact early in the supply chain is important to quality and speed to market.
For the printer, we like to say: A single set of process conditions, a tighter set of tolerances and a willingness to embrace process control. The increased level of process control needed on everything from anilox and blade wear, ink formulation, press preventative maintenance and plate mounting is paramount to maintaining the consistency brand owners require.
FLEXO: At the end of the day, EG (and everything else about a package) needs to generate consumer interest and satisfaction. How do consumers feel about EG? Can they spot the difference between a package using it and one that is not?
Bourquin: I don’t think consumers know or even care—unless you are a nerd like me—as long as the package delivers on their expectations. Brand owners spend a significant amount of time and money on making sure a package’s messaging aligns with consumer behavior. As long as EG helps to do this, it’s a win for all parties.
FLEXO: We’ve covered EG’s past, but what about its future?
Bourquin: The future is bright! I personally see some technologies that will help make the process more consistent and predictable. We will also have more access to big data that will help us understand where the process can be tightened up and help make better color decisions on the front end. We still need stronger development of technologies, processes and standards that are specifically for EG and based on real-world problems.
FLEXO: The session in which you are presenting will focus on wide web flexible packaging, but how does EG apply in other segments?
Bourquin: While some of the benefits are not as lucrative in other segments, it still plays a role in the strategy of a brand or print service provider. The goal is to provide high-quality print while helping to drive costs from the system. This is more important than ever as digital print continues to make strides in execution. EG allows for reduced makeready, bulk purchasing and reduced consumable inventory, all while developing a partnership between brands and suppliers.