In today’s competitive environment, printers are raising their quality levels and finding new ways to differentiate themselves from their competition. One popular method is to adopt a stochastic or hybrid screening product that provides much higher quality, better color consistency, faster turnaround and less waste. With the vast array of screening products on the market, it’s no surprise that printers are searching for the best product to fit their needs. Here are comments from a few printers who have chosen either stochastic or hybrid screening products for their workflow.

Holden Color, Inc., a general commercial printer located in Simi Valley, California, began to use Agfa’s :Sublima in April 2004. The company uses :Sublima on all jobs that are printed on a coated stock and on some uncoated stock jobs.

“We chose to use :Sublima because it was a great way to economically upgrade the sharpness and resolution of our printing which is top-notch anyway,” says Dan Borunda, Holden’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We feel that :Sublima gave us another way to be unique in our industry while maintaining our reputation as a technological leader that is known for quality work.”

Previously, Holden Color was using Agfa’s Balanced Screening 175 product. “We have found that :Sublima offers a higher resolution and line screen,” explains Borunda, “and it gives us much better detail in the highlights and shadows. Our customers have noticed the change in screening processes. Customers with sharp photography are enjoying the better quality look. In addition, our flat screens do not show as large of a rosette pattern.”

One of the key benefits, cited by other printers using :Sublima, is that it handles much better on press than stochastic. These printers have mentioned that :Sublima handles as easily as a 150-line conventional screen.

Holden Color was one of Agfa’s inaugural winners of the :Sublima Distinctive Marketing Award.  Holden’s marketing plan consisted of a number of areas. The firm designed and printed brochures for its customers that explained how :Sublima works and its benefits. The new screening process was featured in the company’s quarterly newsletter, which has a relatively large circulation. Press releases on :Sublima were posted on the firm’s web site and sent to local newspapers.

Holden Color Inc. was founded in 1983. Today the firm has approximately 90 employees situated in a 30,000 sq ft facility that offers prepress services including drum scanning, commercial sheetfed printing, large format prints, lay-out and production, complete in-house bindery, and mailing and fulfillment services. The firm prints a wide range of products from simple postcards and brochures to posters and multi-page catalogs and annual reports.

Perry Judd's Inc., one of the six largest graphic communication companies serving the publication and catalog markets in the US, is using Concentric Screening from Artwork Systems. Its Spencer, Iowa printing facility is now over 80% Concentric in production.

“Over the last six months, Perry Judd's has successfully used Artwork's Concentric Screening when printing on both number 3 and 4 paper grade papers. We intend to expand the range of paper upon which we use this screening on in the future,“ says Ed Bacsik, VP, Division Manager for Perry Judd's, Inc. “Our experience with Concentric has been very positive! We are printing 200lpi Concentric screens, which have the appearance of a 250lpi normal screen, on high speed web presses at 2,600 feet per minute. This higher resolution we see provides us with advantages for our customers. Specifically, we see more detail, smoother flesh tones and tints and much cleaner colors in the mid tones. Reproduction is, in many cases, noticeably superior to both conventional AM and FM Screening. Perry Judd's believes Artwork Systems' Concentric Screening is unique. It enables us to provide a superior printed product relative to other screening available in the marketplace.”

Perry Judd's has printing facilities located in Baraboo, WI; Spencer, IA; and Strasburg VA, as well as a central prepress facility in Madison, WI serving all three of its printing facilities using state of the art digital prepress services. Its broad press equipment platform includes the industry's most modern M3000, M2000, M1000 presses manufactured by Goss/Heidelberg and also run Baker Perkins G14 and Hantscho Mark 14 presses for special applications.

Fujifilm’s Taffeta screening process is being used by Classic Color, a high-end commercial sheetfed operation in Illinois nearly 30 years old with 105 employees. The firm’s clients---a mix of agencies, designers, and corporate clients---were inquiring about stochastic printing and prodded Classic Color to begin to evaluate advanced screening technologies.

“We evaluated many stochastic screening options available from our prepress vendors,” recalls Jeff Hernandez, vice president of Classic Color. “Upon testing alternative screening options, we selected Fuji’s Co-Res AM screening due to the fact that it allowed us the most flexibility on press. We were able to rival Kodak’s Staccato product and in most cases surpass it from a simplicity standpoint and smoothness factor. And, we could make changes on press without going back to prepress. This was a great solution since our clients loved the final products that we competed against. But, as time went on, we began to experience problems when it came to printing beyond four-color, so once again we were faced with the stochastic dilemma.”

It was at this time that Fuji began to release Taffeta, its new screening product. Classic Color decided to evaluate the new product.

“We found that Taffeta was unlike any previous version of stochastic screening products we had ever seen,” says Hernandez.

In December 2005, Classic Color began using Taffeta full-time. The firm currently switches between Fuji’s Co-Res and Taffeta, using Taffeta FM screening about 60% of the time and Co-Res AM screening about 40% of the time.

“Our clients comment continuously on the amazing quality of our screening and how transparent it is to them on press compared to previous screening experiences they’ve had,” says Hernandez. “We now have a competitive edge over our competition. There were no drawbacks to using Taffeta. This is by far the most amazing part of this screening technology. We did not have to turn our pressroom upside down to implement this screening technology.”

When L & M Pressworks, LLC, a general commercial printer located in Denver, agreed to beta test a new hybrid screening process from Heidelberg, it wasn’t without a bit of trepidation. The 55-employee firm had already tried a number of stochastic screening products and had a lot of problems with them.

“This is the first hybrid screening product we’ve tried and it is far and away the best,” says Eric Smith, vice president for L & M. “We produce a lot of high-end product catalogs with beautifully-photographed products, such as jewelry. Heidelberg’s new Prinect Hybrid Screening product reproduces well and has no moiré. Our clients are very pleased. Integrating it into our workflow process has given us faster turnaround and less waste. We use Prinect Hybrid Screening almost 95% of the time, except when a client does not want it or we’re printing on an unusual substrate.”

Up until three years ago, The L.P. Thebault Company, one of the largest independently-owned high-end commercial printers in the US, was an exclusive user of conventional line screening. The Parsippany, N.J., company offered its clients screens of 200 to 300 depending on their needs.

But the firm started to investigate stochastic screening and put it through its own research and development department to assess its merits. In 2003, L.P. Thebault began to very successfully use Kodak (then Creo’s) 20 micron Staccato product, according to the company. Eighteen months later, the firm moved to the 10 micron Staccato product.

“The conclusion we drew,” says Don Seitz, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing for L.P. Thebault, “is that a line screen decision must be made after a discussion with our clients and review of their type of imagery, type of paper being used, the detail in the piece, and the colors. At that point we can make a recommendation whether they use conventional screening or Staccato. What we have learned over the years is that one answer does not fit all customers.”

One such example that lent itself to using Staccato was a production of a Holiday 2004 Burberry men’s clothing catalog. L.P. Thebault Company used a combination of conventional screening and Kodak Staccato screening to print on an uncoated, textured stock to create a soft look for earth toned fabrics and sharp and bold colors for accessories.

“The Burberry Catalog contains the most challenging print reproduction subject matter — soft pastels, four-color neutrals, fine fabric weaves, and delicate flesh tones,” says Seitz. “To further complicate matters, this job combined sheetfed and web presswork. Our company met the challenge by leveraging our production skills and Staccato screening to deliver an outstanding final product that reinforces their customer's brand quality. Only Staccato could give us the broadest color and best detail needed to produce this superior quality product.”

L.P. Thebault Company was recognized for its work by receiving the Kodak Technology Application Award.

Harvest Graphics, a 40-employee, nine-million dollar general commercial printer located in Lenexa, Kansas, began to use Screen’s Spekta hybrid screening technology more than four years ago when it installed its computer-to-plate system. Less than a year ago, Harvest upgraded to the new Spekta 2 system when it upgraded its proofer. Today, the firm uses Spekta on 99% of its jobs, whether they are printed on coated or uncoated paper.

“Using the Spekta hybrid screening process is a marked difference compared to conventional screening,” says Pat Kierl, vice president/production manager at Harvest. “Customers come to us with a sample to match and they can immediately see a dramatic difference from conventional to hybrid. Hybrid screening makes the job look like a continuous tone photo.”

Harvest is equipped with two Heidelberg 29-inch perfector presses---a six-color with coater and a five-color with no coater. “We have fingerprinted both of our presses to the Screen Trueflow workflow system. We have found that the new Spekta 2 system is much easier to adopt and gives us the ability to put curves where we want to sharpen the dot before it goes to the platesetter and perfectly match both presses to each other.”