Rob Lawrence, CGS Publishing - Scanning the industrial inkjet horizon

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Rob Lawrence and CGS Publishing will be participating and presenting at the InPrint Industrial Inkjet Conference 1-2 May 2018 in Chicago. In this interview Rob explains more about CGS, the focus on scanning with their Metis partnership and the development of industrial inkjet in the US.

Rob, tell us a bit more about your background?

My family has been involved in the printing industry for many years, so I have been in and around print shops beginning at a very young age. On some school holidays, we’d go down to the shop and load paper, collate or even strip-up simple jobs. When I left college, I found an opportunity in the financial printing business. There I discovered the importance of attention to detail and using objective methods to ensure not only accurate financial data, but color accuracy as well. For a global business, colour reproduction must align globally. So a Ricoh in Hong Kong and a Xerox in New York would have to colour match across a disparate and widespread network. The secret to achieving this was a software product from CGS Publishing Technologies known as ORIS Press Matcher // Web.

After almost two decades in financial printing I found an opportunity to join CGS.

After a couple of years helping companies produce reliably objective color, the METIS scanner came up as a possible product that CGS might offer a booming industrial printing market.

So flatbed scanners, originally designed to work in this way for digitizing cultural heritage materials (paintings, cartography, historical documents and so on,) are now being used to objectively reproduce surfaces like flooring, furniture, wallcoverings and ceramic tiles.

So for InPrint USA you are participating as CGS, the USA distributor for Metis Scanners?

Yes. Metis scanners bring a unique and necessary capability to the industrial printing industry; in-register capture and communication of surface data for the most accurate and realistic surface reproductions, inclusive of color, texture and glossiness attributes.

Explain more about how this technology works?

To get an effective reading of a surface, you need some method of gathering the surface color, 3D depth and specular details.  To gather this data, METIS scanners are equipped with Metis’ exclusive Synchrolight technology; four powerful temperature controlled LED light banks which provide an unparalleled level of repeatable objective color consistency. Synchrolight makes possible the ability to perform a SuperScan: an exclusive image acquisition mode in which the scanner simultaneously captures multiple lighting configurations: left low, left high, right high, right low. From this SuperScan, an almost infinite number of precise multiple lighting angles and intensities are able to be recalled independently through Metis’ Light Inspector software. Light Inspector, available with each Metis DRS DCS scanner and as a standalone software, is equipped to produce an almost infinite combination of highlight and shadows variations captured by the SuperScan. 

Who is METIS?

METIS is an Italian company with headquarters in Rome and manufacturing in Florence. We want to let North America know that METIS is a world leader and has some unique elements which distinguishes their technology from other competitors.

Such as?

At a very base level, a very practical advantage begins with the mechanics of the device. Outside of the sensor (trilinear CCD) and optics (Schneider) which are common among scanner manufacturers at this level of scanning, Metis designs and builds the device, mechanics, electrical and software all in-house. This holistic approach ensures absolute reliability, precision and predictability because each aspect has been built in consideration of the other.

The more important distinction between METIS and our competitors, is the combination of the patented Synchrolight and integrated Light Inspector software that calculates the data captured. This combination ensures the most complete capture of color, texture and glossiness on every scan. With color, the combination ensures a color accurate yet pleasing natural result.  With texture the combination produces precise surface texture/depth calculations down to the pixel. With glossiness, the combination perceives glossiness/specular variance not possible with any other flat-bed scanning solution. In-short, no other technology on the market can deliver this much complete data, period.

So light interpretation is important explain more?

The light is everything.  For example, when scanning a surface like granite or marble, in order to manufacture a granite/marble-like solid surface material, surface transparency of the marble veins plays a critical role. Any scanner or photographic method will pick up shadow evidence in a vein, but from a single perspective. To capture the veins and other pockets of transparency on other scanners/photographic methods requires reshooting/scanning from other perspectives.  This is not necessary with Metis because the Synchrolight technology gathers up to 100^8 power of lighting perspectives to pull out virtually unlimited perspectives in a single scan. Metis calls this a SuperScan.

So how easy is this technology to sell?

Nothing new and ground breaking is as easy as it should be, but it is really fun and exciting! In most cases, it is a matter of educating people on the concept.  This is why InPrint is important, to tell people that this technology is available and easy to operate and that it can open up new capabilities and new markets using the exiting new digital capabilities coming into the market or even the equipment they already own!

Who is buying it?

In addition to leading fine art reproduction shops that are looking to reproduce both color and textures (brushstrokes etc…) the fastest growing market are the décor printers (gravure and digital) producing flooring, wallcovering and ceramic tiles. The ones most keen on METIS are those investing into digital printing methods and the advantage digital provides (flexible design options and speed to market being big drivers.) No matter the printing method, content is crucial, particularly as consumers are wanting to make their own expressions with their interior design, so stock design is less popular. Digital also enables reduced set up costs so I can have more designs and with UV I can be more detailed with the texture I produce.

No one else in the marketplace has the ability to capture the glossiness detail and the reproduction quality and, of course for us, this is a huge advantage. We got started 2 years ago in the USA and last year we sold 5 machines, which is a big positive for us. We are now seen as a fierce competitor in the US market as well as the European.

So what will you be showing and presenting in Chicago?

A few new capabilities. In addition to demonstrating 3D texture and glossiness capture, we have a really exciting partnership with ColorGATE. Measuring colour, particularly on uneven and/or glossy surfaces is challenging. Industrial printing in many ways is all about durable wear surfaces. Think of a car dashboard, a tile backsplash or even vinyl floor board.  Each is an uneven surface where light produces constantly changing shadows and sheen. What you see depends on where the light is coming from. To cut a long story short, ColorGATE saw the METIS system an opportunity to leverage their software solutions and drive more predictable color reproduction. We will be showing these capabilities at the InPrint USA Industrial Inkjet Conference in Chicago.

What in your opinion is the biggest problem for industrial inkjet?

The one that keeps coming to mind with inkjet is the durability on high wear surfaces. I think an improvement with inkjet coating is vital, and if overcome will offer a great addition to the analogue processes in use today.

How can we solve this?

Through innovation coming from firms who see the problem and want to solve it. For example, Kuei Systems (also from Italy) is an ink company that has an exciting development that solves the durability issue while delivering perfectly in-register texture and color. They call it MyTexture. This is a key component to driving digital production for some décor applications. We are excited because when designers discover the realism, durability and economy of this application, they will seek the best surface data to produce the surfaces they desire.