Efficiently managing extended colour gamut (ECG) inks and coatings

Using an ink dispenser and specialist software, it’s possible to manage all ECG and spot colour printing ink inventories, integrated under one roof – and benefit from significant cost savings as a result…
Flexo and packaging printers have been showing interest in printing by extended colour gamut (ECG – also known as ‘expanded’ colour gamut) for reproducing special brand colours. The ECG method, or fixed-palette printing, features a seven-colour print run of the four process colours plus orange, green and violet (CMYK+OGV).

The challenges of managing ECG ink inventories for flexo

The ability to do extended gamut jobs without changing inks and washing is an obvious logistical advantage. But a challenge that flexo printers adopting ECG should consider is how to manage inks efficiently throughout the complete printing workflow – including inventory control and meeting safety standards on traceability for example – without excessive administration.

Why ink dispensing and software saves costs in ECG flexo printing

Using ink dispensing systems in combination with specialist ink management software, it’s possible to manage and integrate all your ink processes efficiently, whether you use expanded colour gamut alone – or in addition to spot colour inks.

Here’s why:

Four tips for efficiently managing ECG flexo inks

Here are four ways of keeping your ink processes efficient. The best solution will depend on how much ink you use, factory layout and in some cases, printing applications:

1. Connect more base colours to your ink dispenser
Ink dispensers are modular and extendible, so you can add extra base colours to your existing dispensing system, and prepare inks for print jobs with the speed, precision and automation. As each dispensed ink batch is weighed, the inventory and job records are updated immediately by the software, without manual input.

2. Manual dispensing for small volumes

For printers using smaller volumes, an alternative option is to dispense manually where the operator doses ink into a bucket on a weighing scale. This can be the weighing scale of an automatic dispenser or a computer-supported manual dispenser. The dispenser software records inventory changes in the same way as above.

Automatic dispenser with sliding weighing scale to weigh inks manually.
Automatic dispenser with sliding weighing scale to weigh inks manually.

3. Use a dedicated dispenser to supply your ECG press
In two scenarios, a dedicated ink dispenser for extended colour gamut jobs is recommended:

  • if the existing spot-colour dispenser has insufficient capacity or space to handle ECG inks
  • if dispensing near the ECG line significantly reduces motion and thus job setup times.

A dedicated dispenser for preparing expanded colour gamut flexo inks simply dispenses the ink for each printing station into a bucket. Although you can invest in a fully automatic dispenser for this purpose, a semi-automatic solution may be more economical. There are knobs for manual flow control, as single-ingredient dispensing of process colours doesn’t need the precision weighing of spot-colour ingredients.

Semi-automatic dispenser for process inks

The accompanying ink management software must be capable of managing multiple dispensers if your factory has more than one. This allows you to automate the management of all ink inventories – including of different ink sets. GSE’s Ink manager software suite is an example.

4. Feed inks directly to the press
Alternatively, process colours – plus white and varnishes – can be pumped directly to the press, using an ink supply system. This device measures the amount of ink pumped to the press. The ink management software must be capable of linking with the supply system to import ink supply data, so that inventory records are automatically updated in real-time.

Direct ink feed system
Direct ink feed system

Seeking a customized ink logistics solution? Contact us!

At GSE, our experienced engineers and IT staff can devise a customized solution for managing all expanded colour gamut and spot colour printing inks – integrated under one roof. Contact us to learn how we can help make the transition to ECG a smooth one – from a straightforward extension of an existing dispenser to the integration of co-supplier equipment.