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Fri, Nov

Heads in the Cloud

Can the Cloud be used to centralise colour management for wide-format printers? Nessan Cleary investigates what vendors are doing to make it viable.

With an increasing number of services being offered through the Cloud, from file storage through to MIS, so it’s no surprise to find that some vendors in the print space are also offering colour management services from the Cloud.

The advantage of a Cloud-based solution is that it allows for a colour library in a centralised database, which everybody in the design and production chain from brand owners through to printers can make use of. Such centralised systems can also be used for multi-site operations to ensure uniformity of output. For now, most of these solutions are aimed at offset printers working within the packaging sector. But, of course, these days packaging also affects wide-format PSPs as brand owners want to ensure that any marketing collateral, such as POS banners, can match with the actual packaging in question. We know only too well that gone are the days when they were willing to accept the argument that colours may vary in wide-format because of the different materials and the printing process.

There are several options available. Fujifilm, for example, has developed ColorPath, a hosted service that makes all the necessary colour conversion calculations on a Cloud server. It's accessed via a Web browser and also lets users scan in colour charts.

John Davies, business strategy and marketing manager for Fujifilm’s workflow solutions, adds: “There is a verification stage at the end to check that the print conforms to ISO standards or needs further tweaking.”

It's mainly used for commercial offset and digital printing as well as proofers. But Davies says that it could be used for wide-format production. However, he points out that it's designed for creating proofs to print to the ISO 12647 standard, adding: “In wide-format we are using different types of ink and media that isn't ISO-compliant.”

He says that in some cases the ink and media combination is suitable, but less so with substrates like vinyl, though media such as paper or cardboard should give a reasonably good match. He notes: “Sometimes you have to reduce the gamut that you can print with a wide-format printer to get uniformity with packaging.”

ColorPath can also be used to ensure that all the printing devices once calibrated remain within their accepted tolerances.

CGS has developed a cloud option for its Oris range, called Lynx, which is suitable for different print processes, including wide-format inkjet. It’s a browser-based system that relies on users printing a test chart, measuring it and then uploading the results to the Oris Lynx server. The system sends back colour profiles with no need to invest in further colour management tools. It can also optimise the ink usage.

The alternative is a server-based system, such as GMG’s ColorServer, which comes with Smart Profiler for working with wide-format inkjet printers and is used by many UK companies. GMG also has a Cloud-based offering, CoZone. This is a modular solution, where everything is online so there’s no need to invest in further hardware. It can take care of colour conversions online through the Manage module, and can produce legally-binding hard proofs via the Delivery module.

Nonetheless, Toby Burnett, managing director of GMG UK, argues that many wide-format service providers would be better off with a LAN-based system because of the volume of data associated with large-format files. 

For now, most of the Cloud-based colour management systems are aimed at the bigger players, and only a few are suitable for use with wide-format inkjet printers. It is a useful way of bringing wide-format output in line with other print processes. But, using the Cloud also offers the potential to calibrate several printers to the same standard without having to invest in additional hardware. Such a service should be cheaper and easier to maintain – which is the main reason for moving any service into the cloud.

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