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Color Incorporated: from CEPS to CTP

Nov 1, 2003 12:00 AM

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Based near Hollywood, in Glendale, CA, Color Incorporated is a high-end color printer serving packaging, corporate and entertainment-industry clients. Founded in 1968 as a color separator, it has successfully transitioned from CEPS to the desktop and, in 1996, added commercial-printing services. At the beginning of the year, it jettisoned its film-based workflow in favor of CTP.

Starting with drum scanning and image retouching, Color Incorporated can take a project all the way through the pressroom and, working with partners, on to sophisticated finishing, including diecutting, embossing and foil stamping. The printer is often asked to produce the prototype packaging for products that will be globally distributed.

“The majority of our work is extremely high-end, short-run work,” reports Chuck Tinucci, pressroom supervisor. “We do lots of branding campaigns and cutting-edge projects using Hexachrome.”

Clients use a large number of spot colors — and frequently change their mind after seeing initial press sheets and packaging prototypes. Many want to make changes in real time to see how the final product is going to look — without leaving the plant.

While Color Incorporated may have seemed like an ideal CTP candidate, management didn't rush its decision. “Our firm has a track record of investing in technology not too soon and not too late,” maintains president Jim Hamm. “The operative rule here was that CTP would not be a marketing gimmick for us, but an investment with real justification.”

The company considered thermal-conversion platesetters, but was wary of the costs to replace imaging heads as well as service-contract expenses. Color Incorporated evaluated violet devices, too, but didn't want to deal with a darkroom environment or processing chemistry.

The California printer ultimately installed a chemistry-free Presstek Dimension 400 platesetter running Anthem plates. According to Hamm, the company was comfortable with the Dimension's laser-ablation imaging technology and liked its imaging speed and small footprint. “We bought into ablation technology back in 1998 with our PolaProof digital halftone proofing system,” says the exec. “We run that machine 16 to 17 hours a day and it's a consistently good machine.”

The Dimension can output a 175-line-screen plate in about three minutes — speed that helps the printer handle clients' revisions. “We can change out six plates — including making the content changes — in less than 40 minutes,” says Tinucci. He further notes the company has reduced makeready times and paper waste by about 50 percent.

We asked Hamm to tell us more about Color Incorporated's transition to an all-digital workflow.

What's in your plant?

Two- and six-color 28-inch Akiyamas with coaters and some light bindery.

What was your top CTP priority?

The platesetter had to work in our existing Artwork Systems RIP environment with the least resistance (i.e., accepting 1-bit TIFFs). We had existing digital-dot proofing [with the Polaproof]. Of course, quality and price were important, too.

Are you doing any inkjet or remote proofing?

We are looking at remote proofing but have not found a solution that is simple enough. There are some interesting solutions, but there are issues with some corporate ITs, and you are still limited to content proofing as proofer-calibration-maintenance questions linger.

With Epson pigment-based inks and robust color management from GretagMacbeth, we have implemented inkjet in our process. But to be sure, a digital-dot proof is still the best contract. We call it a very cheap insurance policy.

Now that you have a platesetter, are you considering using stochastic screening?

We are evaluating it, but have not seen a substantial positive benefit in quality or the pressroom to justify the required level of process control/costs. There is certain artwork that works well with an FM screen, and in fact, the second-order screening looks much better, but we're going to wait a little longer if we can.

What equipment or service would you like to add?

We will be upgrading and augmenting our existing backbone. With the new Mac OS coming on, there's a whole lot of rejiggering to be done.

Where's the best place to eat in Glendale, CA?

Jimmy's. It's a little sandwich shop on the corner. They've got a great BLT and avocado — no sprouts (we're not all weird in LA).

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