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Innovation is strong in print

TAGA highlights advancements in print from sheetfed offset and inkjet to colour tools and printed electronics, as well as deep technical dives


July 16, 2018
By Martin Habekost
RyeTAGA celebrates their Kipphan Cup win in Nashville with team members (left to right) Cindy Trenh, Julia Forrester, Aidan Kahane, Antek Krystecki, Arianna Kennedy, Nidhi Khatri, Jessica Tam and Masumi Rodriguez (missing are Trung Nguyen and Jeremy Page). Photo: TAGA/John Bodnar

The middle of March is the traditional time for the annual conference of the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts (TAGA). This organization is still going strong since its inception in the 1940s. TAGA was founded by Mike Bruno, who is also the father of densitometry, hinting at its highly technical nature. Many technologies that are now an integral part of the print industry were presented first at a TAGA conference.

Out of this tradition, a number of PIA’s Intertech Award winners were given the chance to present their award-winning innovations at the TAGA conference. The group of conference attendees was a mix of researchers, people from industry and students from seven universities with curriculum for the graphic communications area. The students came from Canada, France and the United States. Students from five universities competed for the prestigious Kipphan Cup for the best student journal. These journals contain research work done by students at their respective university. This year’s winner was Ryerson University, bringing the cup back to Toronto after it resided for one year at the California Polytechnic University. This is now the sixth time that Ryerson University has won the cup!

Four keynotes
The conference always starts with four keynote sessions. The first keynote was given by Dr. Joe Webb. He talked about the third wave, that is the third wave of changes that are hitting the print industry. Webb first talked about the fact that the industry went from a craft to computerized production with shorter turnaround times and make-readies and more predictable print quality. I think everyone is very well aware of this. One of the statements from Webb was in regards to the most used tools in industry. He explains the most used software is WordPress and not Adobe Creative Cloud. The output path of choice is the smartphone and not printing devices. The most photography is done with the smartphone and not a professional camera and the most content is delivered with the help of electrons and not with trucks.

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Webb also talked about the fact that new businesses in the industry are created by outsiders who use new technologies that others won’t. Inefficient businesses close.

Another important aspect that business have to assess is the market life of their equipment and make purchases accordingly. He explains a new business structure and relationship model is needed in the industry in the form of alliances. Print businesses need to become involved with the end-user and find out what they want to do. Knowing why often has more value than knowing how. The market place is rewarding fluency in different media.

The three waves that Webb was talking about all have to do with electronic media. The first wave happened when consumers learned to use the Internet. The second wave came in 2007 with the
introduction of the iPhone, and the third wave is that mobile technologies are becoming smart, presumably relating to artificial intelligence.

Mainstream printing is dead explained Webb. What is still happening are specialty applications, shorter runs, transactional printing, event-related printing and behaviour-triggered printing. Packaging has increasing demand due to the fact of population growth and an increased overall lifespan. Webb gave a few recommendations for staying in business.

This included focusing on client objectives and their market place; change is so constant that there is never a perfect time; be flexible and scalable; always keep learning; do not accept common wisdom; and common sense is never out of date.

Colour reproduction
The next keynote was given by Ken Fleischer of the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The title of his keynote was The misguided pursuit of accurate colour reproduction. His talk was about the reproduction of art pieces and how do you approach their reproduction. It all starts with the illumination that you pick for the art piece. The illumination can dramatically change how an art piece is perceived by the viewer.

One has to ask oneself: “Under what illumination did the artist intend his picture to be viewed?” In the keynote it was stated that high colour accuracy is needed regardless of the material that was used for the artwork.

The National Gallery has an ongoing project and wants to capture the experience of seeing into one’s true nature by using spectrally assisted colour measurements. It uses colour matching functions with the response from the camera sensor. The outcome of this project is to be able to reproduce art as true as possible to the artists’ intent.

The third keynote was given by Kate Smith, a colour consultant. She spoke about how to use colour to evoke feelings and impact sales. She used an example of her company logo, explaining when looking at it, we, as humans, detect motion, edges of shapes, contours, contrasts and the colours that are there. Colour can improve brand recognition by up to 80 percent. Colour can increase attention span and recall by 82 percent, colour motivates purchase behaviour by as much as 85 percent and colour instantly communicates meaning.

Seeing these statistics, one can understand clearly why it is very important to choose the correct colours for a company logo and any market the message that needs to be relayed. Colour taps into your heart, mind and body. Her advice when using colour to communicate is to be relevant by going beyond the initial meaning of the colour that you are intending to use, be timely and also timeless with the chosen colour and tell a story with colour.

Printed electronics and more
The fourth keynote was given by Tim Luong from MGI Teardrop, focusing on printed electronics. Today’s trends in printed electronics are OLED, QDOTS, smart textiles (wearables with embedded sensors, diagnostics) and printed sensors for fluid levels and gas detection. Luong said that his company is working to continuously improve the functional inks in terms of performance, shelf life and scale up. They are using inkjet and aerosol jet for the digital deposition of the functional inks. The use of aerosol inkjet printing allows for the deposit of smaller circuits and rapid prototyping.

After these four interesting keynotes the next two days brought a wide array of presentation from researchers and PIA Intertech award winners. I will not go over each presentation but pick a few presentations out that were noteworthy.

One of the first presentations was about SCTV. Well SCTV is not Second City Television, but spot colour tone value measurement. SCTV is based on colorimetry and not densitometry. If you have an X-Rite eXact or a Techkon Spectrodens you can perform a firmware update to add this functionality to your measurement device. The presenter predicted that SCTV will gradually replace density-based TVI, because SCTV aligns very well with the visual impression of spot colour tone values. The SCTV method is also described in the ISO 20654 standard.

Another presenter talked about the challenges of building a lightbooth with LED lighting, since the LEDs need to be tuned to give the correct colour rendering so the light booth can conform to ISO
3664:2009. One presenter talked about creating, analyzing and optimizing measurement data for ICC profiles. You might say, ‘Well, that’s an old hat,’ but the approach taken is quite unique. They have developed a tool that allows for preserving the spectral data of the ICC profile and has the profile match G7. Their whole approach is based on spectral data.

A young researcher from Wuppertal, Germany, gave a presentation about molecular switches that can be printed with inkjet technology. He described how he modified existing screen-printing inks that are hydrochromic and others that are thermochromic to make them suitable for inkjet printing. He was able to realize switchable inks and these inks show also anti-counterfeiting properties.

One of the Intertech Award presentations was from Komori and its Impremia IS29. This machine can print on a wide-variety of substrates from 40-lb offset to 24-pt board. Since it uses UVLED inkjet inks, the sheets are dry when they come out of the machine. This machine uses the offset perfecting mechanism from Komori, guaranteeing perfect sheet handling.

Other topics that were covered at the 70th TAGA conference covered the topics of: The incorporation of NFCs into smart packaging; The simplification of producing colour accurate packaging prototypes;
A new anti-alteration ink that can show evidence of chemical tampering; The simplification of flexo colour separations through in-RIP processing; Successful expanded gamut separations; the mass production of micro LEDs through flexo print techniques; Optimal tone-reproduction curves for colour printing.

From these topics you can see that the many developments are happening in the print industry. Some might take longer to become mainstream, others might become your everyday tool relatively soon.
The TAGA conference is always very interesting and gives one new perspectives of what is happening on the forefront of the print industry.

This feature was originally published in the May 2018 issue of PrintAction, now available online.