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HP Latex Printers - Performing Color Calibrations

Issue:
Performing a Color Calibration - or Linearizeation - is a routine maintenance step designed to keep a consistant color over time and over the course of many print jobs. Each printhead is designed to maintain a stable temperature and drop volume, however as the printhead ages, that drop volume can gradually decrease in size and weight. When that drop volume changes, the color could gradually shift. The Color Calibration routine will help counter this by holding the printhead to the last known standard and adjust the number of drops to bring the printhead back to original color performance. Color Calibration or Linearization is a standard routine with any color printer. In the case of the HP Latex Printers, the Color Calibration steps may be performed at the printer or at the RIP software. In this document, we will discuss the various options, including some basic advantages of each method, using a "Good", "Better", "Best" approach.
Solution
The HP Latex printers all support the Color Calibration routine - either at the printer front panel, or in the RIP station, or both! In order to understand the process, the HP Latex printers will use one of two components onboard the printer to complete this task. Based on the printer model, the printer will use either a Spectrophotometer or a Line Sensor to complete the task.
Spectrophotometer and Line Sensor
The Spectrophotometer on the Left is a component manufactured by X-Rite - a company known for their quality instruments. The Spectrophotometer is similar to the hand-held units available for purchase from a dealer. The intent of the Spectrophometer is to measure color and is installed on most but not all HP Latex Printers.
The Line Sensor is installed on all HP Latex Printers and is used during media load to find the edge of media and test for skew tolerance, also in main component used during a Printhead Alignment. In some cases depending on Model number, the printer will use the Line Sensor to perform the Color Calibrations. The Line Sensor is known as a Densitometer - which measures changes in color density.
In the following Table, Note three options or methods for performing a Color Calibration - These will be noted as "GOOD", "BETTER", and "BEST"
Printer Model/Family
Good Option
Better Option
Best Option
Color Calibration using On-Board Line Sensor
Color Calibration using On-Board Spectrophotometer
Color Calibration using Spectrophotometer at RIP Station
Latex 2xx
X*
X
Latex 11x
X
X
Latex 31x
X
X
Latex 33x
X
X
Latex 36x
X
X
Latex 37x
X
X
Latex 5xx
X
X
note:
The Latex 2xx series Onboard Spectrophotometer will perform the Color Calibratons using the RIP software. If creating a complete media and ICC profile, use a standalone Spectrophotometer connected to the RIP computer.
GOOD Color Calibration Explained (HP Latex 11x, 31x and 33x printers):
Color Calibration using the On-Board Line Sensor. This feature is available on the Latex 11x, 31x and 33x printers. The Line sensor will perform a good calibration, however in the light neutrals and grayscales, the color may shift slightly compared to previous prints. If a tighter tolerance is required, Use a spectrophotometer connected to the RIP computer and use the RIP software to print and measure the Color calibration charts.
The first prerequisite to any good color managememt:
  • Use the correct media profile for the Media loaded.
  • Perform an initial Color Calibration on a media with new or newer printheads.
  • Utilize only one matching media profile for each media. The Color Calibration routine will read the Media White Point every time. This White Point can change slightly even when the human eye is not able to detect a difference. It is possible different White Point values over time will alter or taint the color calibration values
The best method to recover or return to previous color:
  • Perform a ‘Reset to Factory’ on the Color Calibration Menu
  • Perform a new Color Calibration
If this does not resolve, then perform the following:
  • Replace all printheads
  • Perform a ‘Reset to Factory’ on the Color Calibration Menu
  • Perform a new Color Calibration
BETTER Color Calibration - (Latex 36x, 37x, 5xx Printers)
Color Calibration using the On-Board Spectrophotometer. This feature is available on the Latex 36x, 37x and 5xx printers. The On-Board Spectrophotometer will perform a substantially better color calibration than those printers with just a Line sensor. The printer’s Spectrophotometer will read color on any smooth opaque media. Textured media like canvas, backlit, or coated textiles, need to use a Spectrophotometer designed specifically to read those media types. The differences lie in measuring a larger area of the substrate, and utilize multiple light sources in the instrument.Averaging measurements alone is not adequate to improve the quality of the measurement data.
The first prerequisite to any good color managememt:
  • Use the correct matching media profile for the Media loaded.
  • Perform an initial Color Calibration on a media with new or newer printheads.
  • Utilize only one matching media profile for each media. The Color Calibration routine will read the Media White Point every time. This White Point can change slightly even when the human eye is not able to detect a difference. It is possible different White Point values over time will alter or taint the color calibration values
The best method to recover or return to previous color:
  • Perform a ‘Reset to Factory’ on the Color Calibration Menu
  • Perform a new CLC Color Calibration
If this does not resolve, then perform the following:
  • Perform a new Color Calibration
  • Re-create the printer ICC profile and sync the RIP with the updated media.
BEST Option - All printers
Using a Spectrophotometer connected to the RIP station can provide additional capability especially for textured, backlit, fabrics, etc. Color Calibration using the RIP may also allow the Operator to select the number of calibration swatches or steps. Review your Spectrophotometer documentation for specific settings and features. Performing the color calibration in the RIP, even creating the ICC profile from the RIP will provide an expanded feature set to the Operator. Settings such as the number of color swatches measured, controlling the use of black ink to replace CMY for better ink economy (GCR) etc. are a few of the options provided by the RIP software
The first prerequisite to any good color managememt
  • Use the correct media profile for the Media loaded.
  • Perform an initial Color Calibration on a media with new or newer printheads.
  • Create a new media by duplicating the generic version of the matching media category. The Color Calibration routine will read the Media White Point every time. This White Point can change slightly even when the human eye is not able to detect a difference. It is possible different White Point values over time will alter or taint the color calibration values
The best method to recover or return to previous color:
  • Duplicate from equivilent onboard generic media.
  • Perform CLC on printer
  • Sync with RIP to copy media for subsequent steps and production.
  • Perform a linearization from the RIP software
  • Print and measure ICC patches, then generate new custom ICC
If this does not resolve, then perform the following:
  • Run CLC on printer
  • Perform a relinearization from the RIP software. Most modern RIPs have tools to provide statistical feedback on the amount of change since last linearized. This is very useful in identifying problems and maintaining a high level of performance over time.
  • Re-create the printer ICC profile from the RIP software
Summary
Using the on-board or hand held Spectrophotometer will provide a more accurate color calibration than using the on-board Line Sensor. One additional benefit of the On-board spectrophotometer, we can calibrate the output of one or more Latex printers to another Latex printer. There are some considerations for this process, consult your printer User documentation for additional details.

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