When you need spot colors there are a few ways to go. For larger printers in-house ink mixing, either by your ink company or your own personnel, was the way to go. Smaller shops usually ordered their spots from their ink supplier. A few things have changed over the years. There are fewer ink companies today than in the past. The ones that are still around have closed unprofitable branches and are charging more for spot colors. Minimum order sizes, delivery costs and other upcharges have been added on to help make this area profitable for the ink companies. Ink margins have also become tighter forcing ink companies to evaluate the cost of service and in-plants.
This means higher spot color costs. With most printers having at least six printing units spot color use has continued to grow. Most printers focus on the cost of their process colors but don’t really have a good measure of pricing spot colors. If you use a lot of spot colors your ink cost have grown significantly higher over the years. Also, no one wants to be caught short when they order spot colors. This means you usually have ink left over that rarely gets used up. You probably have tens of thousands of dollars tied up in ink you will most likely never use. Even shops with in-plants probably have more ink sitting around than they would like to talk about.
GFI Innovations has created a solution to this issue – their MX series of ink dispensers. These dispensers allow printers to mix ink in exact quantities with a high degree of repeatability. They also take the measuring out of the equation which greatly reduces the skill level needed to mix the ink. We have had a number of our Members using the MX products with great results.
The unit works by combining a computer with a pneumatic dispensing system with only two moving parts. Fifteen minutes of maintenance is recommended once a year. You purchase your PMS base colors in cartridges, although this does add some additional cost to the PMS bases. The cartridges are loaded into the MX dispenser and all the PMS colors are loaded into the computer based on your ink company’s formulas. Additional special spot colors such as company logo colors can be added by your ink company so you can call these colors up whenever you need them. If you are not mixing your own ink now you do have to figure in some labor costs. The person can be doing something else while the MX is dispensing but it is not labor free. If you are doing your own mixing you should get your mixing done more quickly and accurately.
There are a few ways you can save with this equipment. If you are ordering all your spot colors from your ink company you should see some savings just on the raw cost of the ink. Ink estimating has never been an exact science. You can now mix a smaller amount than you need and see what mileage you get while the job is on press. If you need more you now have a good idea of exactly how much you need. The color matching is very accurate so you don’t have to worry about color variation on the rest of the job. How many times have your ordered ink and received 5 lbs. when you only needed one. With batch sizes between ¼ lb. and 50 lbs. you can mix the exact amount of ink you need.
Even if you have an in-plant operation, using an MX dispenser can reduce your operating costs and most likely improve your color consistency and repeatability. If you have more than one shift manning your in-plant you may be able to reduce your manning. If you have a full time person you may be able to go to part time or mix ink for other printers in the area. When is the last time you reviewed what your in-plant is costing you with your ink company?
You can also work off your current ink inventory by using it to create new PMS colors. The computer on the MX can keep track of your ink inventory and help you work it off. This equipment can be a real positive with your customers on a plant tour. You can talk about how you are saving them money by using only what you need, improving your color accuracy and reducing your environmental impact.
How much should you be able to save? By reducing both the price of your ink and lowering your consumption, average savings are 40% or more on blends and custom colors. GFI Innovations does have a cost calculator that can help you see how fast you can get a payback on the equipment. In addition to the two commercial printing dispensers, GFI makes a narrow web hybrid UV dispenser for Flexo inks. You can get more information at www.gfiinnovations.com.
If you are currently buying your spot colors from your ink company they may not be too excited about you mixing your own spot colors and may try to discourage you from moving in this direction. Make sure you spend time doing your own evaluation. One ink company that has embraced the MX technology is Sun Chemical. They have special programs geared specifically around the MX.