Give a thought to your ink buy

When looking to cut your ink spend, lower-cost inks are not the only option. Noel D’cunha says there are other ways to reduce expenditure

31 Oct 2012 | By Noel D'Cunha

Finding the perfect ink is a quest many print-packagers spent time on. They are looking to cut ink spends, and looking at lower-cost inks is not the only option. So how should a printer save on such a significant outlay as its ink without switching to a less expensive brand? Noel D’cunha with inputs from the PrintWeek India team finds out…

Buying ink and consumables from one seller
What are the advantages? It’s a no-brainer that all suppliers will be keen for you to come to them for as many of your inks and other consumables as possible. And besides good discounts, there are other advantages too. BS Kampani, president and CEO, Toyo Ink India, says, you will get better trap values and consistency in colour and hue of process colours as each company has its own resin and pigment combination. “And of course, better control on the delta values,” he adds.
What could be the savings? A printer should be able to gauge the ink consumption on different substrates from different ink suppliers, leading to standardisation.
What should be the key considerations? Make sure that you have two or three different suppliers so we can go backwards and forwards. “Dot gain, contrast values, standardising grey scale with the help of finger printing, lay, transfer, strength and dispersion values below five micron grinding, etc, should be among the key considerations while buying ink and consumables from one seller,” says Kampani.

Long-term contracts and predictive ordering
What are the advantages? Suppliers will also be keen to insure against printers going elsewhere in future. If one-, two- or three-year contracts sound a daunting commitment, giving the supplier a forecast of the volumes likely to be ordered and perhaps issuing a blanket purchase order can be good alternatives. “This will allow ink makers to order raw material in advance, ensuring consistency in cost and just-on-time supply,” says Kampani.
What could be the savings? Standardisation of print run could help avoid wastage and rejection of printed material. Printers can keep a close tab, through rigorous MIS, on how much they typically use. For ink makers, it offer better negotiating tool, as the raw material price fluctuations can be taken care of by the ink maker, inventory control and good management of inks on machine returns. “This would help decrease the ink wastage,” says Kampani.
What should be the key considerations? Although most long-term contracts will have a notice period of around three months, Kampani says that printers should be careful here. “You should look for the reputation of the supplier for his ethics and quality consistency in terms of environment-friendly raw material knowledge and usages.” But the problem is it’s very difficult to prove ingredient changes, because it may be it’s still the same ingredients, but with a C-grade rather than A-grade pigment. So a blanket purchase order can be a much better middle path, although printers will need to check whether they will be charged if they walk away before the invoice has been serviced.

Building systems
What are the advantages? Many ink suppliers will offer discounts when ink is bought in large volume. “They would save on packaging cost, storage space and wastages in ink when bought in multiple containers,” says Kampani. But the problem here is shelf life, with most ink lasting only 12 to 24 months in tins. This kind of system can also help printers save on staffing costs as people aren’t topping up ink levels as regularly.
What could be the savings? For ink makers it’s a saving on packaging and productivity could improve. As mentioned above, bulking systems can be a real saver, but on for those printers who are getting through large volumes. This means the system is most suitable for those heatset, flexo and screen printers sticking mostly to four colours, rather than sheetfed printers using lots of spot colours.
What should be the key considerations? Savings in bulk packaging purchase, wastage, and space at the printer’s end should be the key considerations. “In addition, printer could also look into introducing ink cartridge system or the ink dispensing system if they have new machines and would like to make the shop floor look clean besides saving tremendously on ink wastage,” says Kampani.
Dhaval Mehta, director of Super Label, agrees. “If you’re only using a small amount of ink you may get problems with ink flows,” he says. Mehta’s brother and a fellow director, Darshan adds, “This can also lead to improper ink transfer onto the substrate which can lead to bad printing. This will also amount to huge wastage as the machines general length is 50 metres which means 50 metre of label stock is wasted. So I think using proper quantity of ink is advisable.”

In-house mixing
What are the advantages? If one is a packaging customer then he can standardise on the 11 basic Pantone shades, including the four-colour process and produce any shade any quantity, any time required for the job. “Besides this, the spot colour returned from the machine can be used to reproduce any other relevant colour in the future matchings,” says Kampani.
What could be the savings? Less inventory and minimum 15% to 20% savings in ink consumption. “Those who print lots of spot colours will never be stocked out, because they could produce any of the Pantone shades required for coated, uncoated board or films, etc,” says Kampani.
What should be the key considerations? Kampani says, printers should ask the ink makers to help in training manpower. “For the concept to be viable your ink consumption in offset should be a minimum of 400 kgs a month and in liquid inks it should be above 10 tons a month,” he says. That said, certain spot colours are more difficult to reproduce batch to batch. For instance, with spot colour greys subtle changes can be easily noticed, so it may be more cost-effective to get these from a supplier rather than risk QC issues, waste sheets or even job rejection. As regards fresh stock and machine inventory, should not be more than 15 days in either case. “In case an ink company is to manage your ink kitchen, then the cost of skilled manpower and other instrumentation cost should be taken into consideration,” says Kampani.

Ink Application
Accurate profiling
What are the advantages? The ink optimisation software that now comes as part of many workflow systems by the likes of GMG and Alwan, can be a good way of making sure ink isn’t laid down unnecessarily. “Advantage of profiling is multi fold. It depends on what is the aim of the printer,” says Vishnu Kamat, associate vice president  – sales at Advanced Graphic System (AGS). It can help him match his proofer to his press, it can help him standardise on his process, it can help him reach ISO standards etc. Before we start we should be clear of the target and then profiling will do wonders.”
What could be the savings? The savings is in terms of time, inks, paper. It leads to a great repeatability, reproducibility of the colours. “If ink optimisation software is added then it will lead to anywhere between 15% – 25% of saving of CMY inks depending on the job to be printed.”
What should be the key considerations? The only downside is if a printer’s been using generic profiles for so long that when they print using the correct profile the customer thinks the colour’s wrong. “Yes, in our industry we print for the customer and the colour that the customer likes the best, even though it may be out of the gamut of our normal printing. Due to this the moment we use a standard profile, the colour may not be exactly the same,” says Kamat. To aviod such issues, the printers needs to educate the customer on standardisation process and how he works on the files given by the customer and use only standard profiles from the start to the end.

Machine maintenance
What are the advantages? Machine maintenance is of utmost importance as it ensures a clean, well lubricated machine having less wear and tear. “The chilled water pipes cleans fungi, which interferes with the ink water emulsion and could be harmful for spreading allergies or sickness through the printed substrate,” says Kampani. “Well maintained rubber rollers lead to better lay and less consumption /deposit of ink on the plate.” The same goes for washes and the wash-up programmes on the machine; if a good quality wash is not used and the programme is not correct, then this can lead to greasy rollers that will then affect ink transfer.
Avoiding four-colour black
What are the advantages? Saving an ink station or saving by overriding profiles for digital printing that apply colour underneath black to give denser finish, and those for traditional printing that ‘put a shiner’ on black areas by applying colour on top. Kampani says, “This subject was spoken of in the 1980’s,1990’s, 2000 and now 2012, but it repeats itself as without black it is very difficult to have shadows well defined and contrasted. Even in today’s colour science it is very difficult to match a four- colour picture without a black.”
What could be the savings? Ink deposit costs, says Kampani.
What should be the key considerations? There could be some clients who prefer the richer black you get from four colours. “Often, the way artwork is set up makes it impossible, because if someone gives you artwork with a big black background and it has got images cut out as well, you can remove the four colour from the background easily enough, but not from the images,” says Kampani.

After printing – Recycling waste
What are the advantages? Besides disposing the containers, which is a costly affair, it is a reduces burden on environment and decreases the requirement of fresh raw materials, says Kampani.
What could be the savings? The options for reducing waste disposal costs through recycling will depend on the sort of containers and inks being used. Most easily recyclable will be tins and drums, but cartridges can also be recycled.
What should be the key considerations? Transportation of containers for recycling is key. The easiest way for most people to save money is to stack tins in a container rather than just chucking them in – then they’ll get far more in one load.

Parksons Packaging Ink Kitchen - By Arets Graphics India
After the economic liberalisation in the early 1990’s, print packaging became an important and integral part of product and it’s positioning. The customer can choose from many products. Thus, first look of product, that is packaging, is gaining importance.
Print packaging is all about having special colours, and its consistency is considered to be paramount. According to Prashant Atre, the business head, Arets Graphics India, “an ink kitchen having a spectrophotometer, printability tester, lab balances, curing unit and good ink matching team, can have its own advantages”. They are: 
Accurate matching irrespective of batch variation in paperboard surface.
Flexibility of having exact quantities. If a job needs 350 gm of ink, one need not have to buy one kg from ink manufacturer
Price control, a lot of cost by correctly selecting the base colours needed for the job from 24 base colour system
The left over ink from the last job can be re-used for next jobs by the help of ink formulation master 
The ink kitchen help in keeping the past records of inks used for the job, thus save time and wastage.
The ink kitchen helps in faster proofing of new job for end user on-line approvals. Thus help converting business opportunities and many more.
Arets Graphics India, specialists in UV ink set up the first ever UV offset ink kitchen in India in 2005 at Parksons, Daman plant. “We are proud to serve Parksons not only at their Daman plant, but also Chakan and have recently signed a long-term service agreement for their Rudrapur plant,” says Atre. 
Belgium-based Arets also serves many other large and medium UV packaging and label printing customers and boasts of over 20 UV ink kitchens all across India. “The importance of ink kitchen in any packaging unit is same as having a kitchen in any house, irrespective of unit size – small, medium or large.”