What is InkZone?
The InkZone concept for presetting the ink keys on offset printing press is making life easier for printers: they are saving money and gaining time; at the same time, they are achieving considerable increases in quality and productivity.
With InkZone, JDF files supplied from the workflow or bitmap or CIP3 data that have been converted by DI-Plot into the Job Definition Format are then converted by InkZone into the required preset control commands for the specific machine. As a direct continuation of the preset function, the Closed Loop technology is responsible for non-stop control of the press and compliance with print production standards.
Small Gap, Big Opportunity
In many printing companies, the digital workflow stops with plate imaging. Preflight, layout, color corrections, proofs, plates and that's it. The press may have some digital controls, but in most shops, there is still a gap between the prepress workflow and the controls in the pressroom. Unfortunately, this means that the valuable capability to leverage prepress output data in order to preset ink keys on-press remains unused. And because existing proprietary connections often come with high investment costs, there is little incentive to close what might be perceived as just a small gap in the flow of data. That said, many small to midsized companies will be throwing away the opportunity to achieve significant savings, better efficiency and greater quality. It was in response to the clear need for a comprehensive and cost-effective solution for ink-presetting and closed-loop that Digital Information developed InkZone.
InkZone is an intelligent, JDF-enabled concept for closing the prepress to press workflow gap. InkZone is independent of all press manufacturers. Thanks to dedicated interfaces, a unique method to make a network connection to most any press console – even on older offset presses – and a low price point, closing the workflow gap is attainable for printing operations of all sizes.
JDF-Supported Ink Key Presetting
InkZone is based on JDF technology and is fully compliant with global workflows and international standards. The DI-Plot software sends ink coverage values in the form of JDF files to InkZone Perfect for conversion to calibrated machine and print-related values for presetting the ink keys and ductor rollers. The InkZone hardware components send this data via network and in the specific format required by the press console.
An alternative to plate scanners
In many printing facilities, preset values for ink zones are still generated using plate scanners. Apart from the laborious handling of the printing plates, the scanning of plates also results in a relatively imprecise ink profile due to weak contrast between the aluminium and ink-bearing layer, while subsequent precise adjustment of the zones costs time and paper. Through the online transfer of bitmap files, the work-intensive detour via the plate scanner is eliminated. In addition, InkZone will always refer back to first-generation data. That means: shorter set-up times and minimum start-up waste. In terms of shrinking print runs and frequent job changes, this means a significant increase in productivity.
Digital presetting of the ink keys
InkZone extends DI-Plot, the Rip-independent formproof solution, by a new component and brings manufacture-independent workflow all the way to the press. Now, bitmap data calculated by DI-Plot and used for the formproof can be simultaneously used for presetting the ink zones on the press. InkZone can be used with all popular press types. Existing offset machines without digitally preset ink zones can be upgraded with InkZone simply and economically.
InkZone supports the transfer of preset data - also JDF based - between prepress and press. Bitmap or CIP3 files accepted from RIP and converted by DI-Plot into the Job Definition Format are then converted by InkZone into specific press signals for presetting the ink zones. The conversion function is fulfilled by inkZone also in the case of direct transfer of CIP4/JDF files from any JDF prepress workflow.
More productivity, greater efficiency
Data calculated for film and plate imaging provide the printer with reliable information for digitally presetting the ink zones. Numerous advantages are the result, which go to boost the productivity and quality of the printing process: much quicker attainment of the correct ink feed, shorter start-up times, drastic savings in waste and 100% reproducibility with repeat orders, because the same digital data are referenced all the time.
Quality assurance thanks to Closed Loop
The calculated preset data can be written to the Closed Loop software package by InkZone. After start-up, the press also prints measuring fields for each print zone, which are measured and compared with the saved reference values for CYMK plus spot colors. InkZone transmits the necessary correction values to the press control console online. The printer decides on the use of these corrections and retains the option to intervene manually at any time. The console then writes the relevant settings back into the InkZone software package.
The Closed Loop functionality of InkZone is the simplest possible way to achieve continuous monitoring and control of all zones in the offset press. When it comes to maintaining and logging a stable printing process as required by all international standards, Closed Loop is indispensable!