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Commercial Printers and Industry 4.0

Posted January 24, 2017 by Ray Cheydleur

If you’re a commercial printer who wants to improve color quality and consistency and stay current on industry trends, you need to be aware of Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 can mean different things to different people, but it generally refers to the fourth industrial revolution, which incorporates trends in automation, data exchange, smart systems, and the Internet of Things.

Image courtesy of Christoph Roser at

Today I’ll explain what Industry 4.0 means for commercial printers.

Industry 4.0 means smarter print processes.

With so much of the print industry transitioning to digital print processes, there’s plenty of opportunity to work smarter. For example, smart front ends can grab jobs and related specifications from the cloud, incorporate variable data and adjust specifications based on job criteria like substrates and printing technology, then calibrate and color manage with embedded and near-line measurement systems. The results can then be validated to ensure they meet print specifier and/or brand owner expectations. And much of this can be done without human intervention.

Signs of Industry 4.0 were all over drupa 2016, and I’m happy to say that X-Rite was right there in the thick of it with PantoneLIVE, ColorCert, CxF and Intellitrax2 with closed-loop press control.

Here’s how it works.

The Industry 4.0 concept also applies to color management workflow automation as a combination of multiple interconnected technologies, and in commercial print, they fall into four broad categories. To give you a better idea of how Industry 4.0 will help commercial printers work faster and smarter, here are the four categories with examples of each from our X-Rite Pantone portfolio.

Pantone’s CAPSURE device measuring inspiration colors for home interior product design.

1 – Brand Owner & Designer Tools

To accurately specify and design with color, you need to be able to digitize spectral color descriptions across substrates and printing technologies. Spectrophotometers and colorimeters are important for capturing exact spectral values from inspirational items. Bringing measurements into PantoneLIVE, a cloud-based application, allows everyone involved in the workflow to access the same data. Standards such as CxF are also crucial for seamless communication.

2 – Connected Data

It’s no surprise that many applications are moving to cloud-based models. A cloud-based repository not only serves as a seamless communication and delivery mechanism, but also allows cross-site collaboration and production validation. Our ColorCert Suite of statistical process control tools plays a role here, as does PantoneLIVE. These both offer input and output validation for insertion into the process as needed.

3 – Customized Content

CAPTION: With PANTONE Studio, Pantone has created a comprehensive, connected digital workspace for designers to experience its entire product and service offering.

We are living in an age of personalization. From photo calendars to custom printed wrapping paper, consumers love the ability to make products their own. From a color perspective, customization can also refer to the ability to bring colors in from the real world and validate them against Pantone or other standard values. It can also refer to the need to customize ink formulas for specific substrates and/or print technologies.

InkFormulation Software plays a role in ensuring customized ink colors will deliver the design intent based on the target substrate and printing technology. Pantone Studio is another way to bring in customized colors from the real world and validate them against Pantone and other standard values. And don’t forget about ICC profiles, which can help customize and transform your color data to a specific output device.

4 – Hybrid Output

Print doesn’t live in isolation, but rather within a continuum of communication that includes social media and other methods of sharing and collaboration. This makes it even more important to ensure consistent color across all devices and output formats, both digital and physical.

We’re already seeing content creation happening on smartphones and tablets using tools that can distribute work directly to a press or integrate content into desktop production. To me, this is the most interesting piece. This is where PantoneLIVE plays a significant role, but also where we will see an expansion of ICC profiling using today’s versions including X-Rite’s ColorTrue on phones and tablets, as well as the forthcoming iccMAX. At its core, iccMAX can understand spectral values for all types of illumination and is a way to address that – so that there is a consistent brand identity across prepress monitors, proofers, presses AND mobile devices. This is where applications like ColorTrue and the i1 Publish Family come into play.

i1Publish Pro 2 is a unique collection of professional color management tools to ensure consistent profiling and calibration across all display and print output modes.


Stay Tuned…

We’re working in a very dynamic time, and Industry 4.0 means big changes for our industry. Be sure to keep an eye on our blog. On Thursday I’ll be sharing four important things on the horizon for color-managed workflows.