Automated CtP Calibration for Offset Printing : Dot gain compensation, register variation and trapping evaluation

Sammanfattning: Although offset printing has been and still is the most common printing technology for color print productions, its print productions are subject to variations due to environmental and process parameters. Therefore, it is very important to frequently control the print production quality criteria in order to make the process predictable, reproducible and stable. One of the most important parts in a modern industrial offset printing is Computer to Plate (CtP), which exposes the printing plate.One of the most important quality criteria for printing is to control the dot gain level. Dot gain refers to an important phenomenon that causes the printed elements to appear larger than their reference size sent to the CtP. It is crucial to have the dot gain level within an acceptable range, defined by ISO 12647-2 for offset printing. This is done by dot gain compensation methods in the Raster Image Processor (RIP). Dot gain compensation is however a complicated task in offset printing because of the huge number of parameters affecting dot gain. Another important quality criterion affecting the print quality in offset is the register variation caused by the misplacement of printing sheet in the printing unit. Register variation causes tone value variations, gray balance variation and blurred image details. Trapping is another important print quality criterion that should be measured in an offset printing process. Trapping occurs when the inks in different printing units are printed wet-on-wet in a multi-color offset printing machine. Trapping affects the gray balance and makes the resulting colors of overlapped inks pale.In this dissertation three different dot gain compensation methods are discussed. The most accurate and efficient dot gain compensation method, which is noniterative, has been tested, evaluated and applied using many offset printing workflows. To further increase the accuracy of this method, an approach to effectively select the correction points of a RIP with limited number of correction points, has also been proposed. Correction points are the tone values needed to be set in the RIP to define a dot gain compensation curve.To fulfill the requirement of having the register variation within the allowed range, it has to be measured and quantified. There have been two novel models proposed in this dissertation that determine the register variation value. One of the models is based on spectrophotometry and the other one on densitometry. The proposed methods have been evaluated by comparison to the industrial image processing based register variation model, which is expensive and not available in most printing companies. The results of all models were comparable, verifying that the proposed models are good  alternatives to the image processing based model.The existing models determining the trapping values are based on densitometric measurements and quantify the trapping effect by a percentage value. In this dissertation, a novel trapping model is proposed that quantifies the trapping effect by a color difference metric, i.e. , which is more useful and understandable for print machine operators. The comparison between the proposed trapping model and the existing models has shown very good correlations and verified that the proposed model has a bigger dynamic range. The proposed trapping model has also been extended to take into account the effect of ink penetration and gloss. The extended model has been tested using a  high glossy coated paper and the results have shown that the gloss and ink penetration can be neglected for this type of paper.An automated CtP calibration system for offset printing workflow has been introduced and described in this dissertation. This method is a good solution to generate the needed huge numbers of dot gain compensation curves to have an accurate CtP calibration.