Expert Interview with Prof. Bruce Myers from Rochester Institute of Technology
For a special edition of our BarbierON series Viktor had the pleasure to interview Prof. Bruce Myers from Rochester Institute of Technology, Department of Packaging and Graphic Media Science and collect a lot of insights about the educational approach to color management in a variety of printing applications!
Color management is a crucial aspect of digital printing and at RIT it is lived and breathed in their courses and seminars. Prof. Myers discusses everything from color calibration to ICC profiling and gave us his view about achieving accurate color reproduction.
Grab a coffee sit back and relax and hear Bruce’s insights about how the printing industry changed and how specialty digital printing has come to the forefront!
Hi, Bruce. Thank you for having me here at the RIT here in Rochester. I’m here with Professor Bruce Myers. He invited us from Barbieri to present our technology to the students and present our company and our color measurement instruments. We are very proud to be part of this guest lecture that we held so thank you, Bruce. To get things going, I would like you to introduce yourself.
Tell me a little bit about you and your role here at the RIT!
Thank you, Viktor. First of all, you’re very welcome. It’s always great to have people from the industry come in and talk to the students. The students get very excited and get to see real world things. So thank you for for coming all the way to Rochester, New York. But about myself, I’ve been in the printing industry since 1985 and I’ve worked for major manufacturers initially in various technical sales and management roles, and I also served as the global sales training manager for a manufacturer of color measurement instruments.
I then came to the RIT in 2011, an opportunity opened up and they needed a professor that was going to teach color measurement and color management. So I applied for that position. I was hired and I was very happy to join the faculty here. And since that time I’ve been I’ve been promoted to it. So I direct the programs now that both the undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree programs and the master of science degree programs in graphic media, science and technology.
So that’s good. But I also am in the classroom teaching color management.
Thank you. So you mentioned that we are going to the classroom soon. We are having a guest lecture about color measurement, about accurate color measurement technology. So can you tell me a little bit about this color management course? What’s the content? What are the students like and what they probably do in the future in their careers? So give us some insight about this course.
Certainly. Well, in the color management course, the students start off with learning about the fundamentals of color management, so they learn the various metrics. Actually, I start them off with density and of course, density you can have there’s a number of variables in measuring density, so they learn about different aperture sizes, which becomes important. They learn about different standards, status T and status E, for example, or a polarized filter or a non polarized filter.
starting out with spot color, they’re reading CIE Lab and Delta E, learning about the different tolerances and the other variables that come along with colorimetry and spectrophotometry.
So we spend a week or two on that and we also talk about the limitations of density as process control for CYMK like it’s all right for some applications, but then building on that they move into colorimetric readings. So starting out with spot color, they’re reading CIE Lab and Delta E, learning about the different tolerances and the other variables that come along with colorimetry and spectrophotometry.
So I have them building spectral curves and looking at illuminant metamerism and things of that nature. And the next stage we move into ICC profile based color management. I start them profiling a scanner. Scanners maybe not used so much anymore, but because the scanner is self-contained, it’s very easy to build a profile.
So we talk about that and how they built the profile and then they move on to monitor displays and then finally printers so that there’s enough there for our 15 week semester to keep them busy along the way. They’re doing lab reports and experiments and learning about these technologies. Now, really, regardless of the student’s career trajectory, this information I think is very important.
Some of our students go and they’re hired to run color management efforts for major companies, and so they’ve been well prepared for that, I believe, from taking this course. Other students are in the production side and of course in graphic media production. We have the creative people who are providing content, graphic designers, advertising agencies and the production people.
So our students are typically on the production side of that equation. And of course they’re getting files from all over and they have to optimize them for print production. And that really separates us from a graphic design program so our students know how to optimize files. And a huge part of that, of course, is color management. And this is something that brand owners need.
probably the number one complaint from people who complain about printed products is they’re complaining that the color is not matching
And you mentioned careers. Very often our students are in the packaging industry and of course brand color control is extremely important in packaging, but really in all graphic production people, probably the number one complaint from people who complain about printed products is they’re complaining that the color is not matching. So I believe that in this course they’re they’re prepared with the foundations of what they’ll need and the terminology and how to work with these technologies moving forward.
Well, that’s very interesting and very broad. But also it shows that they can start very good careers after this education. Obviously, they need to gain experience, but it’s a good foundation for their future life in digital or whatever printing they’re going to. So you mentioned you’ve been here since more than ten years, and I’m curious, how did you see this world of printing changing over this past ten years, like new materials to be printed, new applications, So tell us a little bit what you have observed in the last couple of years.
That’s a great question, Viktor. First of all, ten years ago, all people wanted to talk about was 3D printing, and 3D printing was going to change everything. Now, 3D printing is an important technology, but today people look at it more of an industrial technology than a printing technology. So not to say that it’s not important and not to say that it’s not a growth area, but it certainly hasn’t been realized the way they envisioned it ten years ago, at least in terms of impact to printers.
The other side of that is the impact of digital printing. Ten years ago, production inkjet was a future product. Today, I see many printers in the commercial sector or in the advertising sectors. They say, I’ve bought my last litho press. I’m only going to look at production inkjet now, of course, you know, a lot of things have happened globally since then as well with the pandemic and other things and getting skilled people, at least here in the United States, to run a litho press is a challenge.
I’m 60 years old. If I walk into a pressroom, they call me kid, you know. So it’s kind of funny, you know. But a lot of it is a very serious concern here in the United States and I imagine elsewhere as well. And that’s one part of the equation. But the other part of the equation is customers want shorter jobs and faster turnarounds.
customers want shorter jobs and faster turnarounds
And so digital printing, of course, enables that. We all know that digital printing on a production scale has impacted variable data, direct mail, things like that, that are enabled by digital printing. But also jobs are getting shorter and shorter and shorter. And what’s happened is if you look at litho, for example, offset lithographic technology, they kept ahead of the curve by introducing automation, Automated Ink Presets, doing process control, automated blanket washing, automatic plate changing.
We’ve seen shops replace three presses with one new press and of course that requires fewer professionals running the press. So but we’re pretty much at the end of that, I think they don’t see any innovation. So we went from maybe 30 minute make readies to seven minute make readies in the litho world. But now with digital and the short runs that you can do in a production environment, we see that as a future trend that will heavily impact.
What we would consider specialty printing has really come to the forefront.
Now litho is not going to go away and but certainly it will be relegated to higher and higher volumes because the quality of digital production has come up. Now concurrently with that, we see now specialty printing. What we would consider specialty printing has really come to the forefront. So direct to garment is the most widely used example of that that’s changed the way people are buying products.
we have these specialty applications, which represents growth areas for the incumbent printers
Now we’re in the holiday season people can get very specialized products that are direct to garment printed and really it’s direct to paper, direct to garment, direct to anything almost in this scenario. So we have these specialty applications, which represents growth areas for the incumbent printers, the people who are printing now, but also opens opportunities for new people to enter into printing in a specialty market where they can carve out a niche of customers in doing the sort of specialty things.
So that’s very interesting. And I think you gave a very good point. And also this leads me to one follow up question. So we hear that with digital, we have shorter production runs and more challenges, more different materials coming up. So I assume the margin for error gets smaller and smaller. So we just you have to hit it right on the first time.
What advice do you give to your students to tell them, “hey, make sure make sure you reduce your errors, make sure you hit everything on the first time.” Tell us a little bit about your view on that.
Oh, yeah, that’s a good point. Even though there is growth in many sectors of the industry, productivity is increasingly important
productivity is increasingly important
The cost of paper, the cost of substrates, looking at the supply chain issues that many printers are talking about today, they can’t get paper, they can’t get the paper, the customer requests, the customer has to use a different paper.
So this is something that maybe as a result of the pandemic, but the cost of the old estimating trick in commercial printing was what’s the cost of the paper and we’ll double it. And that’s going to be your approximate cost. If paper is indeed the substrate, is the largest part of the cost of the job.
So any wasted paper is eating immediately into your profitability, not to mention the productivity you need to if you the time that it took to output, something that’s going into the recycling bin is time that you can’t recover. So emphasizing the economic conditions is part of our curriculum. So students understand this, but in order to get productivity, students need to understand the importance of process control.
in order to get productivity, students need to understand the importance of process control
So they need to know. I like to say “calibration is a device in a known optimized state.” So it’s known because you’ve quantified it with instrumentation, it’s optimized because it’s printing to the manufacturer’s specifications. So you can maintain that over time and that’s the process control piece. And this is the foundation of any color management effort. So you need to be calibrated, you need to have process control to keep your devices in this optimized state.
I like to say “calibration is a device in a known optimized state.”
And this in turn will increase productivity, minimize waste, minimize spoilage, and allow you to deliver your jobs on time. When you look at the scenario, when the customer rejects the job, it’s not just the cost of the substrate, the cost of the time to make it, but also the public relations with that customer. Do they see you as a reliable provider?
And of course they have a choice as well. Now, there will always be a market of people who buy on price alone, but many times people need price and quality.
And there was an old saying in the printing industry, “speed, price and quality” pick any two. But today with digital printing, customers are demanding all three and in order to deliver those three, you really need process control.
Well, that’s very good insight. And so we hear also about what your future topics will be in the next couple of years in your course. So I’ve seen out here a beautiful printing lab with different technologies and I saw some measurement instruments as well. I see some software, students having the ability to try and to play around with everything.
So tell us a about your connection between the university and the industry to companies. How’s that like?
Yeah, we’re very, very fortunate here at RIT. This year we’re celebrating our 100th anniversary as a printing school. Our printing program started in 1922 in what was called the Empire State School of Printing in Ithaca, New York. That moved to what was then called the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute. And so this was many, many years ago.
And then it became the graphics program of which we’re the stewards of today. What this means in our long history is we have nearly 4000 alumni working in production jobs around the world, people who graduated from this program. And many of those individuals support our programs. Many of our students and many of our alumni work in the vendor community.
Now, I came out of the vendor community, not the production community, but I’ve worked with many production shops, obviously as vendors do so, but many of them are in their vendor community and they’re very, very gracious and generous in supporting us with equipment and including other companies where we don’t have alumni. They see and they know that if students come here and they work with their devices and they’re comfortable with their devices, that when they graduate, they’ll say they’ll be working their production environment and they’ll say, Hey, have you seen this device?
Or, you know, we could do this at school, you know, you could do this here. So we hope that that is the benefit from that. But we are very, very grateful and we’re very, very fortunate to have vendors who support our programs with donations of equipment and supplies and software and other things because they know the value in that.
They know the value in having young people working with current things so that they can bring that out to the industry when they graduate.
Well, we certainly from Barbieri are very proud to be part of it and also very happy to collaborate with your institute. And we also believe it’s good to support these young students. The university and its educational spirit. To give the people here the chance to try and to play around with the tools to learn to grow and then go out in the industry and be a successful part of it.
I see some color measurement equipment here. What role play color measurement devices, and instruments here at the school and finally at your teaching courses?
Well, we have several solutions for color measurement, maybe starting with spot reading instruments that are typically used in the press room. And we have several manufacturers, different devices, different generations of devices that the students work with. We also have monitor calibration devices and we have, you know, true soft proofing technologies for virtual proofing. And we have scanning solution for the press room, for the litho press room that scans the color bar spectrally and breaks the information up into inks.
So students get exposed to that and of course much of this is supported by software. We also have products, the Barbieri and products like the Barbieri for ICC profiling and for calibration of digital printing. So they have applications in other areas as well, but you’re typically not going to bring that into the press room. That’s a separate area.
The digital printing devices for ICC profiling, for calibration of digital printing and for process control of digital printing are also integrated with our offerings here, along with the software that support.
Thank you, Bruce, for that. I believe now it’s our turn to get the students excited to use the tools, to try them and to get a feeling for it. I think they are very well equipped to measure a variety of different materials and we are looking forward to our collaboration. Thank you for sitting down with me. We are very happy to work very closely with you now.
It’s my pleasure, Viktor. And thank you for your generous donation of the remarkable device. I mean, the ability to measure nearly any printable substrate in transmission or reflection is very important. And as you demonstrated to the students, and it’s very exciting to them, is it’s not just an instrument that would plug into a rip software.
You can use it for so many things, data collection and more importantly, process control that’s built into the software. And we’ll be using that extensively for research and for managing our own operation here. So we’re very grateful for that and grateful for your support and for you coming all the way from Italy to Rochester to meet with our students.
Of course. Bruce, thank you once again. It was very nice sitting down with you. Thank you.