Ink accounts for a much larger share of expenses on any digital print run - at least 10 to 20 times greater - than the two percent or so typically cited for ink used in conventional printing. The latest annual survey by Digital Output magazine (August, 2011) pegs ink costs for 2012 at more than 38 percent of combined expenditures for ink, media and hardware, a total of nearly $3.1 billion dollars globally for ink alone.
Closer to home for most of us, is the simple fact that (also per Digital Output) the average cost for a single liter of that ink is $210. Of course, periodic price increases are a virtual certainty. On the other hand, clients don’t care how much their printer pays for ink. What counts is ink-on-substrate, the quality of color they see in their jobs.
Premedia Group LLC, Greensboro, NC, is well aware of these cost-client challenges. Now they’re making notable headway on both fronts, thanks to ICEmeta, a new ink-saving, color-optimizing product from FineEye Color Solutions, Grand Rapids, MI.
According to FineEye Color CEO Steve MacDonald, ICEmeta ICC profiling is the first-of-its-kind technology developed exclusively for the digital marketplace, based on FineEye’s industry leading ICEserver software used in conventional print operations. With ICEmeta, however, there is no software to install. Users can quickly and seamlessly replace any ICC destination profile with an ICEmeta profile obtained via a special web portal (www.fineeyecolor.com/icemeta). The ICEmeta profile is inserted directly into their workflow RIP.
Run the ICEmeta profile and significant ink savings immediately result, along with improved color output. Just ask Brian Criscuolo, Premedia Group’s co-owner.
Initial ICEmeta usage ‘ices’ an exclusive, full-time gig with Premedia
“We saw solid results on the very first day,” reports Criscuolo. “We reran a production job that we had just completed and saw improved color quality and about 30 percent savings in ink. We continued to closely compare the two workflows for a couple of weeks. But it was pretty obvious and became an easy decision to use ICEmeta profiles exclusively.”
“Since September, 2011, we’re seeing over 22 percent ink savings on average, compared to our prior workflow. It depends on the graphics involved,” Criscuolo cautions. “But we see savings like this on almost all jobs and 22 percent is an average, not the high end.”
As for color quality: “Based on results we’ve seen, it’s a better solution than the pure G7 Certification workflow. It takes G7 a step further, with the added benefit of better color while still keeping the neutral gray balance that G7 is built upon.
“Colors with ICEmeta are brighter and cleaner. With our 8-color EFI ink set, it pushes more into the ‘light’ colors (CMYK light vs. regular CMYK). You still have a nice range; the flesh tones and neutrals look really good. The neutrals look even better than the GRACoL 2006 coated profile.”
Pleasant ‘surprise’: ink savings confirm FineEye claims, quality draws clients
Noting the “puffery” that typically runs rampant among providers of virtually any product or service, Criscuolo says “I was surprised that the ink saving was as great as FineEye said it would be. Savings vary from job to job, but they are consistent and significant. Payback from these profiles adds up pretty quickly, day after day.”
While the company’s balance sheet reflects less ink per job, printed output reflects positively on Premedia Group and helps bring more jobs their way.
“We serve a wide variety of clients, and it’s definitely helped us,” Criscuolo says. “Customers do notice. We do a lot of POP work for what I call ‘picky’ clients, and this has helped set us apart from competitors regionally, throughout our market area.
“As we moved forward with ICEmeta implementation over the past six months or so, our quality has helped bring more work to us. Customers who were having jobs done in the Midwest and even overseas, are now bringing projects here. Overall throughout 2011, we had a 26 percent sales gain.”
That’s great news for any operation, especially in today’s economy, and it bodes well for the future of Premedia Group.
Latest press further expands Premedia capabilities, makes an ideal ICEmeta mate
Previously part of the Marietta, GA-based Graphic Arts Service network, Premedia Group officially emerged on December 1, 2005, when prepress manager Criscuolo and assistant plant manager Toni Hasler took over the Greensboro operation as co-owners. The firm has grown steadily and now employs 10 people in Greensboro, and also has a second North Carolina service office.
In 2008 they moved up to a new EFI VUTEk QS3200 printer with 126-inch wide format capabilities vs. their previous 84-inch machine, allowing Premedia to handle jobs in-house that previously were outsourced. Early in 2009, they moved to roomier quarters (nearly 50-percent more space) at the same Greensboro location, 1185 Revolution Mill Drive. June 2011 marked another milestone with the arrival of their VUTEk GS3200.
“The GS3200 is twice as fast as the QS,” Criscuolo says. “We do a lot of Point-of-Sale projects; this press will turn out twenty, 5’ x 10’ POP retail quality boards an hour, and can run twice that many in fast mode.
“For jobs that have a white ink component, GS3200 performance is virtually flawless, definitely better than the QS was. Multilayer capability enables us to lay down the white first, or in-between graphics or last with one pass of the substrate. This has helped us bring in even larger jobs.”
Whether printing POP, packaging, catalogs, magazines or other materials, “this is our primary output device,” he points out. “ICEmeta helps it work for us better than ever.”
Generating new ICEmeta profiles is “very easy,” Criscuolo says, noting that they “set up and ran new profiles on multiple substrates with multiple resolutions in one day” with FineEye Color specialists on-site. “When we reach a point where we decide to do something new and unique with a substrate, we can use the ICEmeta web portal.”
New profiles in minutes via try-before-you-buy ICEmeta web portal
That’s how FineEye Color makes it incredibly easy for prospects as well as users to access, test and obtain ICEmeta technology-enhanced profiles anywhere in the world via its web portal, www.fineeyecolor.com/icemeta.
Users can simply select an ICC destination profile residing in their RIP and upload it through the portal. An ICEmeta ICC profile is created in a matter of seconds. The prospect can compare profiles and also see a report indicating the percentage of ink savings he can expect when using the new ICEmeta profile. Then he can decide whether to purchase the new profile or adjust specifications and review an optional profile.
In almost no time they get back their chosen ICEmeta profile, which goes right back into their digital workflow RIP, ready to run. “The portal provides a seamless as well as speedy way to deploy this technology,” observes FineEye’s MacDonald. “There’s no software to install, no overhead or added workflow steps. No hassle at all.”
ICEmeta delivers what today’s digital operations need. “The thought of ink savings intrigued us first,” reveals Criscuolo. “The fact that it also gives us even better color than the basic GRACoL 2006 profile, which is considered the printing industry standard, is like icing on the cake.”