By Olivia Cahoon
Recent advancements in digital print technology narrow the production gap between offset and digital. This includes the ability to use standard coated and uncoated stock, shorter turnaround times, and high production speeds. With continuously expanding digital capacities, print providers serve more industries.
Above: Color Ink of Sussex, WI used is Fujifilm J Press 720S, Polar 137 EMC Guillotine cutter, and Endurance Glass Cover to create 2,000 18×24-inch posters for Arizona State University.
Family Owned & Operated
Founded in 1984, Color Ink, Inc. started in a 10,000-square foot facility in Hartland, WI. The company originated as a general commercial printer that offered creative services and small format sheet-fed lithographic printing. Its original client base was about a dozen customers located in Southeastern WI.
Jim Meissner, founder, Color Ink, Inc. used his experience in commercial art and advertising to grow the company. It soon expanded and relocated to Sussex, WI.
The print provider now has over 250 customers across Canada and the U.S. and occupies two buildings with a total of 105,000 square feet of workspace. The company remains family owned and operated with a commitment to quality and innovation.
With over 75 employees, the company offers UV sheet-fed lithographic printing up to 40 inches, small format digital printing, wide format digital printing, and dye-sublimation (dye-sub). “We also have expanded our creative services to include custom displays, package design, and cross-platform media solutions,” says Todd Meissner, president, Color Ink, Inc.
Over the last ten years, the company expanded its digital printing solutions. It can print sheet sizes up to 10×10 feet on a variety of substrates including acrylic, fabric, falconboard, foamcore, paperboard, plexiglass, plastic, styrene, textiles, and vinyl.
A Digital Spread
For over 15 years digital print technology has played a role in its operation. The company’s printing equipment lineup consists of a variety of digital, wide format, and offset printing solutions. Its digital printers include the Agfa Jeti Mira MG 2732 HS; Epson SureColor S30670; S5067, and S70670; Epson SureColor F9200 dye-sub printer; Inca A4oi Onset Printer; Inca Colombia Turbo large format printer; and Xerox Versant 80 Color Performance Press.
In March 2017, the company installed the Fujifilm J Press 720S—a high-quality, sheet-fed inkjet press. It handles maximum sheets of 29.5×20.8 inches with an output of 2,700 half-size sheets per hour. Todd Meissner says the company selected the J Press for its print quality, uptime, and color consistency. “We struggled maintaining consistent color with other digital devices and our lithographic presses. With the J Press, all of those problems have gone away,” he says.
Printed sheets emerge dry from the J Press’ IR drying system. The press also uses standard coated and uncoated stock instead of specialized digital paper, two features beneficial to Color Ink.
“With the installation of the J Press, we can now offer lithographic-quality printing on a digital press. This has been a game changer for us,” says Meissner. The J Press 720S is designed for printers that need the quality and robustness of an offset press and the versatility to handle short press runs. It produces high-quality images up to 1,200×1,200 dpi with four levels of grayscale.
Approximately ten percent of the company’s work is completed on the J Press. “We are seeing gross profit margins on J Press projects to be consistently ten to 15 percent better than traditional lithographic projects,” admits Meissner.
The J Press uses a proprietary water-based eco-friendly ink that is manufactured and distributed by Fujifilm. According to the company, he water-based inks reduce cleaning and waste while producing bleed-free images.
“Our press is setup to print on coated and uncoated papers in the range of 100# text up to 24-point board. We have had success with most paper brands available in the market,” says Meissner. Color Ink typically uses Carolina Coated Cover Paperboard, Endurance Coated Papers, Anthem Plus by Verso Corporation, and Sappi coated covers.
All of the company’s prepress files are processed using Agfa Graphics Apogee workflow. Apogee allows users to control every phase of the production process from a single user interface. It integrates with different Apogee solutions like Preflight, Impose, and InkSave.
For variable projects, Color Ink uses Meadows Publishing Solutions’ DesignMerge, an add-on component for Adobe InDesign and Quark. It allows users to create customized, one-on-one marketing documents.
For cutting prototypes and packaging, Color Ink installed a Gerber Technology M1200 flatbed cutting system. The flatbed cutter handles sizes up to 85×77 inches with speeds of up to 34 inches per second. Its T3 modular head accommodates up to three tools plus a laser pointer for accurate positioning.
The company’s finishing equipment also includes an Aerocut Digital Cutter/Creaser, ATC UV Roll Coater, InPro Rhino paper cutter, Pitney Bowes DM525 Mailing System, Pitney Bowes Flow Master 12000 XL, Polar 137 EMC guillotine cutter, Pro-Tech Orca III Laminator, and Zünd Digital Cutter G3 L-3200.
Sun Devils Posters
In September 2017, Arizona State University—a repeat customer—approached Color Ink for two versions of the university’s Sun Devils athletic poster schedules.
The job was sent to the Fujifilm J Press 720S, which printed on 80# Endurance Gloss Cover.
For finishing, Color Ink used its Polar 137 EMC guillotine cutter. “The nature of the inks and cutting system allows us to handle the sheets almost immediately after printing so we are able to cut and package without any additional drying time or coating,” shares Meissner.
After receiving the print file, proofing, printing, and trimming, Color Ink shipped the posters the next day. In total, the company printed 2,000, 18×24-inch posters with a gloss enamel cover for durability and shine.
According to Meissner, if the company had printed the posters on a conventional press, it wouldn’t have been able to hit the deadline and would have exceeded the client’s budget. “The J Press allowed us to produce this project in less time and at a lesser cost than any other press we have used for this in the past,” he offers.
Advancements in digital print technology pave the way for print providers like Color Ink to take on more jobs with shorter turnaround times and higher efficiency.
Jan 2018, DPS Magazine