Good G7 is not cheap; Cheap G7 is not good
By Ron Ellis
The Value of G7
In the past few years G7 has proved to be a valuable tool for many. For others it has been merely a piece of marketing buzz that hasnÕt changed their production process the way it could and should.
Becoming a G7 Master involves achieving all the conditions required for G7 Qualification – during a fixed moment in time. The G7 Qualification data is a snapshot in time showing you can print to G7 conditions. But what happens after the G7 Expert leaves? Has the customer learned something from that moment in time – or was it just a passing moment when the press conditions were just right? An even more important question is what happens a few months later. Are printers still able to print to G7 conditions, or was it just a useless exercise?
G7 qualification is important
Part of the answer to this question has to do with how the G7 Qualification occurs. The least successful G7 Qualification events are ones in which an expert or vendor blasts in and quickly performs the qualification. This normally involves press runs and plate curves, but does not change or impact the users production process.
These types of qualifications are often brief one-day events in which densities are adjusted and plate curves are quickly adjusted to provide G7 compliance. This type of qualification run is usually painless for the user. It is sometimes included as part of switching to/or continuing to buy consumables (and nothing is wrong with this but doing this is no good if you canÕt maintain the condition).
In a blur the qualification runs are over, and the data is mailed in, and the Qualification obtained. Though this brief event may have used little press time and is painless for the user, it is not providing value for the user or the print community at large.
For a printer, the value is not in obtaining the G7 Qualification (although that can be good for marketing). The value is in learning a better way to control your print reproduction process. If you canÕt hit that same proof day after day then what good is it?
During a G7 Qualification, the user is taught how to control their production process, and this is typically neither fast nor easy (though easier and more accurate than many older methods). It can involve learning new ways of measuring and thinking about color data. At the very least being successful with G7 means learning how to use and apply process control procedures throughout your entire production process. The goal is not just to print a good sheet based on gray balance,– but to be able to print that same sheet over and over. G7 defines a calibration method based on gray balance. The G7 method was developed by Don Hutcheson and others. It is beautiful in its simplicity,– which is why it has been so successful.
What isnÕt easy is holding that condition; but holding that condition is exactly how to get the continued makeready savings and everything that the G7 method offers. How long should a good G7 Qualification take? It depends on your plant and how complex your workflow is.
Rarely can G7 Qualification and training be done effectively in two days. More typical is a three-day engagement involving qualification runs, process control training and pre-press workflow integration.
What I find interesting about maintaining the G7 condition is what you learn about your own production. When you start to closely watch print conditions you begin to notice little things you would never notice in daily production. Here are a few examples:
á A press slowly drifting away from the print condition.
á A proofer drifting away from calibration.
á Changes in dot gain by cylinder.
á Changes in trap.
á Ink changing color because of variation between batches or contamination.
á Changes in plate material and plate curves.
There are countless other examples, but once you begin to track print conditions you will be able to see even small differences in print and proof conditions.
Offset print has a relatively wide amount of variation that can be seen, and depending on the results you are trying to achieve you can exercise reasonable but precise process control to fit your needs.
Getting the most from G7
So how do you get the most from G7? Rather than just having it ÔdoneÕ for you, you or your production professionals need to learn the process, and how to maintain it yourself, without outside assistance.
Back when presses were roaming, and proofers were chasing presses, good process control was less important. With the G7 method, process control is more important than ever and you need to learn how to use it to hold and correct your print conditions to maintain a constant appearance.
The key to saving money and being more efficient is being able to print and hit the same color over and over. The G7 method, combined with process control, can help you do this. DonÕt opt for the cheap way out and just have it done for you. Take the time and learn how to control and maintain it yourself.
Remember — good G7 isnÕt cheap, and cheap G7 isnÕt good. It doesnÕt mean it has to cost a lot, but it does require more than just having someone come in and do it for you. The best scenario is where you learn how to do it yourself, and learn how to control your own print process rather than having others do it for you.
About the author: Ron Ellis is a New England-based consultant specializing in color management, graphic arts integration and press calibration. An IdeaAlliance G7 Expert and co-chair of the GRACoL Committee, Ron has performed more than 100 G7 calibrations. In addition to calibrating pressrooms, Ron also specializes in creating internal working spaces for brands and agencies that allow them to work more efficiently with vendors, saving both time and money. Ron is published frequently in industry magazines, and has produced training materials for numerous printing industry vendors and publishers. He can be contacted at 603-498-4553 or through his web site at www.ronellisconsulting.com.