26 Oct 2021

Tribune Publishing trials Agfa's SPIR@L screening technology

Agfa’s latest screening technology lowers ink consumption on average 7% and improves image quality.

When Agfa rolled out its innovative SPIR@L screening technology that lowers ink consumption while improving image quality, Tribune Publishing agreed to a trial at its largest site. Once the results were in, the decision was made to integrate it into their print production process.

SPIR@L screening reduces ink spend at Sun-Sentinel

The Sun-Sentinel is a long-time user of Agfa’s OptiInk, which reduces ink consumption while improving image quality. The Sentinel’s pressroom operations manager, Kurt Moody, didn’t think they could recover additional ink savings until they tested Agfa’s new SPIR@L screening technology.

“With OptiInk, we enjoyed substantial ink savings,” explains Moody. “We didn’t think more savings were possible. However, if advances in technology can save us more, it’s just something you want to pursue. So, the SPIR@L screening concept made sense.”

SPIR@L screening replaces the ink dot used in offset printing with more efficient shapes, such as spirals, delivering a thinner ink layer. A spiral shape replaces the traditional dot and requires less ink to fill the exact same dot area. This screening achieves higher contrast and it produces a crystal-clear image, thus maximizing print results.

“We are saving between 5 to 8 percent more in ink with SPIR@L,” states Moody.

“It’s a great technology. We see a big difference in quality, particularly in highlights and shadows. I didn’t think we could lean on our calibration anymore because we are as lean as can be, but SPIR@L delivered.”

Moody explains that SPIR@L is a unique concept that succeeds. “We tried many different technologies. SPIR@L screening is just a totally different concept, and it works.”

Less water, less waste, less ink and improved yields

With SPIR@L, the Sun-Sentinel sees multiple benefits. “We are starting up with less water, and make-readies have decreased significantly, with improving yields. We are selling good copies sooner and have less waste,” says Moody. “We run such lightweight newsprint—it’s not as thick as it used to be. It’s the other reason why we want to put as little ink on the page, just the right amount, to improve on show-through, set off, and other problems we encounter when we put ink on the sheet.”

The Baltimore Sun gains efficiencies

Roger Herold handles quality assurance and newsprint at The Baltimore Sun. He was looking to gain efficiencies when Tribune Publishing initiated the SPIR@L screening test.

“Sometimes with color newspaper photo reproduction, there tends to be too much mid-tone dot gain with conventional screening,” explains Herold. “You don’t get the contrast and the punch so the pictures can look muddy."

“When we changed to SPIR@L screening, the difference was striking. It’s like looking through a dirty window and then wiping it clean. SPIR@L sharpened the image, improved color quality, and helped to eliminate image slur.”

SPIR@L screening controls the ink application, allowing for printing with a thinner ink layer. The traditional dot is replaced with a more economical spiral shape, requiring less ink to fill the exact same space. Smart dot placement using SPIR@L screening results in sharper structures and finer detailed renderings.

Herold also noted, “When I look through the previous samples, the photos have good contrast, and they have more pop. The green grass looks really good, and the blue sky is blue without yellow in it. Overall, we’re producing better quality output, and it’s something we can clearly see.”

SPIR@L simplifies press optimization

SPIR@L technology smoothly transitions from positive to negative spirals and minimum white gap, resulting in a high-quality image. SPIR@L is set up according to pressroom preferences and based on the press and paper used. Different curve and groove areas of the SPIR@L screen are designed to achieve high-quality print and maximize ink savings with these preferences.