At Drupa 2008, a meeting of dedicated color measurement specialists from the Netherlands and the United States laid the foundation for MeasureColor. In less than a decade, this comprehensive and groundbreaking color measurement system developed into an indispensable tool for quality assurance and process control to some of the largest printing companies in the world.
“Over the course of a decade the printing industry has changed completely”, says Erik Koldenhof, a founder of Colorware BV and co-creator of MeasureColor. “The industry was split into different groups, typically based on the hardware manufacturer of your chosen instrument.” “Printers were limited to using only the software that the instrument manufacturer provided, trying their best to make it fit in their workflow.” Erik continues: “We saw an opportunity to create a product with the print operator in mind, to make their job easier.” Happening to meet a pair of color measurement specialists named Norm and Dan Uress while exhibiting at the show, Erik and his business partner Ruud Wentrup saw the potential synergy between the four partners and together they teamed up to create the most user-oriented color measurement product in the world. Ruud recalled, “While Drupa 2008 was a great exhibition for us, we were most excited about starting this new collaboration and bringing the product to market as soon as possible.”
“No other product allowed the printers choice of measurement device, in a networked client-server architecture, where all phases of the print production process could be controlled from one solution,” says Dan Uress, founder of Colorware USA and co-creator of MeasureColor. Norm Uress added, “We didn’t set out to define the product by our own vision, but instead we brought ideas to our potential customers and let them tell us what to prioritize and how it would be best represented.” Looking back, that meeting of Erik, Ruud, Norm and Dan at Drupa 2008 would become the inception of MeasureColor, a solution now used by thousands of customers worldwide.
Today, MeasureColor is the preferred solution for many leading companies in the packaging industry. Market leaders in flexible packaging and paperboard are using MeasureColor daily as a centralized end-to-end solution for their entire group of plants. As the user base continues to grow, frequent updates and constant improvements keep MeasureColor ahead of the competition. In the last three years alone, there were 375 new features and improvements. Koldenhof states: “We differentiate ourselves by making the operators’ job easy. We eliminate any uncertainty or questions about color management and quality control. To us, it’s incredibly important that the right information can be shared with the right people throughout the organization, without any difficulty. Most color measurement applications look as if developed by color scientists for color scientists. We want to make the information as clear and relevant as we possibly can. Color management should not be rocket science. It is our mission to translate all data into comprehensive instructions for any operator. They just want to get on with work and we aim to help.”
The industry has come a long way when it comes to quality control. “In the beginning, hardly anyone made the effort to measure color accuracy in the printing industry. Measuring ink density was the closest they could get to quality consistency. We introduced software that would help press operators to measure the actual colors with spectrophotometry.” Recalls Koldenhof.
Erik continues “There were other software vendors that worked with spectrophotometers, but many of these solutions were developed by press-manufacturers and often they were complicated, expensive and dedicated to just a specific brand of machines. A unique selling point of MeasureColor is that it’s completely independent. It can be used with any hardware, machine or printing method. We develop the software by listening to our clients. We are a service driven software development company specializing in color.”
Actionable adjustments at a glance
MeasureColor also offers an intuitive interface and it presents the right information for any given context. One important achievement was the introduction of the Spot Color Tool in 2016 that makes the impromptu measuring of colors extremely easy. With the Spot Color Tool, the operator can select a color reference from the color library, instead of having to measure a reference themselves. This saves everyone a significant amount of time and has made color control much easier for quality managers and ink specialists as well.
The addition of Chromatrack enhanced the ease of use of the Spot Color Tool even more. Chromatrack visualizes both the target of the color and the achievable match of the color given the ink and substrate used. It also points out if, when and how the press operator will be able to achieve the maximum result. Dan Uress adds: “In the past, all the operator could get was a number that represented the best match. With Chromatrack, the operator now sees at a glance how the ink is behaving and how to obtain the best result. Since the quality manager can see it at the same time, everyone knows the best solution.”
Chromatrack also shows how the operator is printing within the allowed tolerance and whether they need to make adjustments at the ink zone. With the right automation, the concept can even be used in a closed-loop system, where the data is fed back in to the machine, allowing it to adjust itself.
Automation at enterprise level is enhanced with the use of Esko Automation Engine, which can create MeasureColor jobs automatically. The job information is fed into the Automation Engine from the management information system and subsequently translated into a MeasureColor job. All the operator has to do is enter the job number to start the job at the press. This method eliminates errors and reduces input redundancy.
Another milestone in the development of MeasureColor was the support for the G7 printing method. Despite G7’s scientific approach, the developers of MeasureColor succeeded in creating an intuitive user interface. The G7 method puts a strong emphasis on matching grayscale colorimetric measurements between processes. As the color gray consists of multiple printing colors, this traditionally makes it difficult to figure out which colors need to be adjusted, in order to obtain the right result. The introduction of the Grayfinder in MeasureColor solved the problem by pointing out exactly for which colors adjustments must be made. The Grayfinder takes into account the substrate, press and ink that are being used for a print job.
The biggest addition to MeasureColor has been the launch of MeasureColor Reports at Drupa 2016, which has grown into a platform of its own. Wentrup adds: “This is a perfect example of a development that was a direct response to requests from our customers. It was on everybody’s wish list.” While MeasureColor collects and stores all production data, MeasureColor Reports imports the data and presents it in clear and understandable information. Senior management, quality technicians, and even clients can get a clear overview of production. They can review the data, compare variables such as performance of presses, operators, inks and much more.
The dashboard of MeasureColor Reports shows all data in real-time. It’s easy to compare todays color quality with that of yesterday or last month. Norm Uress comments: “Senior management wants to see if the quality is going up and variation in color is going down. MeasureColor Reports instantly makes this clear. If you have changed to a different ink supplier, MeasureColor Reports shows you how the new ink is performing.” For production managers there are Daily Metrics which provide an overview of relevant information of the production of the last 24 hours. Every morning the production manager receives the report in their e-mail inbox, bringing them right up to date.
The MeasureColor team is continuously working on new updates, features and even entirely new concepts. Koldenhof remarks: “New developments and techniques create new opportunities. Cloud computing, for example, makes it much easier to share and synchronize information. Inexpensive and uncomplicated measuring devices are entering the market. These developments open up new possibilities. We aim to bring solutions for everyone who is involved in the business of color. Thinking of our upcoming developments, I can assure you that Drupa 2020 will be a very interesting event. And even before that, you can expect more exciting new announcements from MeasureColor.”