Ink Room Management

Mixing Accuracy and Savings

For years, ink management systems have been available to printers in the form of Ink Mixing Systems. It seems that the most prevalent thought process when considering a system is how it can help color matching in production. This is a very important aspect of these systems, but they also have a larger impact on a plant in the form of incredible control and cost savings.

A shop owner will need to ask him/herself; “When is the time to go with a mixing system?” The answer may be any one of the following scenarios:

  • The shop cannot rely on pre-mix colors to satisfy all of the print jobs.
  • The ink tech has trouble hitting target colors by mixing the pre-mix colors off of the shelf.
  • The pre-mix colors are getting too expensive to re-order.
  • It’s difficult to keep up with inventory.
  • The shop needs to know the real costs on the individual print jobs.

Color Correct

In the printing industry, ensuring that colors are correct is an essential part of business. Mixing systems provide more accurate color over mixing and matching standard inks because the mixing system components are created with single pigments. Standard pre-mix colors, on the other hand, consist of multiple pigments in each color. When a shop mixes color using standard inks, the final mix is multi-pigmented, causing color shifts and subtle differences that make it difficult to repeat when needed. For instance, when creating green in the mixing system, a yellow + blue will generate a consistent and bright green. But, with off-the-shelf colors, the yellow may have some red pigment in it and when it is mixed with a royal blue (also containing red pigment), the result will be a very dull green. A mixing system is designed to ensure correct color because the components are always the same and it is easy to mathematically predict the outcome. This alone saves on labor cost, time loss and ink waste.

In addition to the precise color mixing benefits, the overall component costs of ink systems make it possible to make colors cheaper. This is based on the fact that a shop, in essence, becomes its own ink manufacturer. For instance, a pigments and base system will create a color utilizing small amounts of the expensive component (pigment concentrate) and large amounts of the low-cost component (base). The shop is able to create a standard ink for a fraction of the cost compared to buying the finished color direct from an ink manufacturer.

Also, producing colors in-house means that color is available faster. Instead of waiting for UPS to arrive with a special color, the mixing system enables the ink tech to mix only the amount of color needed for the job, so there is no over-buying. This is a significant inventory cost reduction.

Cost and Inventory Control with IMS

To assist printers even further, most color systems offerings have supporting Ink Mixing Software. This software offers a variety of ways to save time and money.

  • Ink Mixing Software allows techs to quickly search the database for the formula needed through a look-up filter. This feature combs through the formula listings, saving time and labor for ink techs looking for a color.
  • The software also allows techs to adjust calculations. This feature helps an ink tech create new color on the fly and rename to save as a custom color.
  • The re-calculation feature in the software helps techs who may have accidently added too much of a component. This feature can recalculate the amount for the other components that need to be added back in to put the formula back on track.
  • Cost tracking on the ink components is another important feature of the software. This allows techs to load the component costs into the software, enabling reporting of the actual ink costs per gallon or per job. This feature makes it easier to figure costs, thus pricing on individual jobs.
  • Ink Mixing Software can also help inventory control by estimating ink usage. This feature allows the user to keep up with the component usage for a job, which results in less waste and keeps purchasing to a minimum.
  • One of the most valuable tools with a Mixing Software System is the Recycle feature. This enables users to take unused ink off of the shelf and use it as a component into the next needed color. This recycling saves money by keeping inventory low and minimizing component purchases.

Which System is Right for You?

Ink Mixing Systems are not one size fits all. Each system has the same general cost savings associated it, but contains a unique set of features. To choose the best system for your shop, you must first learn more about the three different types of mixing systems available.

There are three basic types of mixing systems that dominate the current plastisol market:

  • Pigment concentrates (PCs)
  • Finished ink
  • Colorant (or hybrid)

A PC system uses pigment concentrates and base to create color. This very system is used by ink manufacturers everywhere to create production color in their plants. The PC/Base system was the first type of ink-mixing system ever released and is designed for maximum versatility. The system commonly includes 15-18 pigment concentrates and a large range of bases designed to print on different substrates. The PC system is very versatile, with clean color formulas and multiple bases which include special effect bases. The initial component setup is more expensive than other systems, but the final mixed color is the least expensive of the systems.

Finished ink systems use mixing components that are fully fusible. These components can be used alone or can be mixed together to hit color. Because of its ease of use and lower initial set-up cost, this system is the most commonly used type of mixing system. This system commonly includes 15 single pigment inks for mixing colors. Though this system isn’t as versatile as the other 2 systems, the finished mixing systems utilize simple formulas that are always “safe” and are easy to follow.

And finally, colorant systems utilize fusible concentrates (curable) and base to create color. The balanced colorant system offers the freedom of using a variety of bases (like the PC system) with the safety of balanced fusible colors (like the finished ink system). This system commonly includes 15 colorants and a variety of bases for different substrates. The colorants create clean formulas that can be used in multiple bases, including special effect bases. One unique feature to this system is the ability to add as much colorant component needed to achieve color or opacity. By adding 10 percent additional pigment to a formula, the color will go from translucent to super Opaque.

Deciding to go with a color mixing system may seem like an expensive proposition, but the return on investment is well worth it. Once a shop gets in the routine of the mixing system, the savings on labor, waste and purchasing is nearly immediate.