A marriage of convenience
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By Sophie Matthews-Paul
20 January 2012
It's the marriage of several elements which produces successful print
We expect an awful lot from our machines, praise them to the hilt when they produce outstanding work and curse them up hill and down dale when something doesn't come out as expected. We lavish attention on our print-heads, feed mechanisms and drying or curing systems, and we still wax lyrical about the levels of technology which are integrated into our printers.
But the bits we often forget are those elements which, if they weren't available, would mean that nothing ever was printed. We take for granted that this ink will work with that material and be suitable for a whole bunch of applications. These quiet consumables are expected to be pumped, jetted and fed through our printing equipment, following the instructions of the given profile to the letter. When the quality isn't perfect or fit for purpose, which part of the process gets the blame?
To an outsider, as well as many of those using ink-jet technology day in and day out, it's really little short of a miracle that the combination of printer, print-heads, ink and material works as effortlessly as it does. In terms of media, we can throw a variety of widths, thicknesses and coatings at our printers and expect the results to be right every time. With ink, we can juggle the numbers of passes and the amount being put down, along with other adjustable algorithms, and assume that we'll get the right colour depth and density for the job in hand.
Behind every printer development is a fleet of integrators sorting out print-heads, ink delivery systems, drying and curing elements, material feed mechanisms and take-up rollers. And behind these folk are other sets of people working out ink formulations which will contain the right delivery and jetting properties, plus material manufacturers and coaters ensuring that, once applied, the ink will stay put and perform its function for the desired duration of the life of the application.
So we expect everything from our printers and the bits which marry with its capabilities to make sure that we get what we expect in our applications. When new developments come to market, we accept revisions and enhancements that affect all the components which go together to provide us with a complete system.
Wide-format digital print is prey to continual technology improvements and reaps the benefits of improved ink formulations and a wider variety of sheet and flexible materials. As users, we should be never forget that it's the combination of printer, ink and media that has proved to be a successful merging of elements which brings us the capabilities we're able to work with today.
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