A Review of the Barbieri Spectro LFP qb Textile Edition by Bruce Leigh Myers, Ph.D.
Automated Spectrophotometer for Traditional and Specialty Applications
A Review of the Barbieri Spectro LFP qb Textile Edition
By Bruce Leigh Myers, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology
Few would doubt the importance of color management in modern graphic workflows.
In the earliest days of ICC-profile-based color management for printed materials, instrument automation, ease of use, and accuracy proved to be a stumbling block inhibiting widespread use. The earliest adopters of these technologies for printed materials often used expensive spot reading spectrophotometers or lower-cost tri-stimulus reflective colorimeters, which provided requisite colorimetric values but suffered from accuracy issues. Using a spot-reading device for measuring the requisite measurement of hundreds of patches for output profile building is tedious and time-consuming. The monotony involved in taking so many spot readings also increases the likelihood of mistakes, compounding the inherent problems. Soon, however, instrument manufacturers responded with innovations in spectral technologies to introduce lower-cost and more automated options, including robotic “x,y” tables, strip readers, sheet-readers, and lower-cost yet multifunctional “hand-scanning” spectral devices.
Color measurement automation addressed the ease of use of the measurement application, and color management increased across the industry.
The availability of automated spectral instruments has enabled widespread adoption of color management to ensure color consistency that satisfies buyers and brand owners across. Consistent output across various printing devices has also enabled low-cost contract proofing applications. Today, practitioners routinely utilize automated spectral devices for important tasks from linearization to profile-building. But, the majority of these devices are limited to reading paper-based substrates.
Printing companies providing specialty graphics, including backlit display and textiles, not to mention substrates like ceramics, glass, and stone, have significantly fewer automated spectral measurement-based options for color management and are frequently thrust back into the same measurement concerns that faced color management adopters in the early days.
Barbieri electronic SNC of Bressanone Brixen Italy has introduced the Spectro LFP qb Textile Edition to address the automated color management challenges those producing specialty graphics face. The Department of Packaging and Graphic Media Science at Rochester Institute of Technology utilizes this impressive device in curricular and research applications. The device is exceptional due to its ingenuity, ease of use, and flexibility.
Unlike many automated devices where the spectral instrument moves across the substrate measured, the Spectro LFP qb Textile Edition is designed such that the measurement device remains stationary and the substrate is moved. This function is enabled by innovative sample holders specific for the type of substrate being measured. Sample holders are provided for reflective and transmissive materials at a variety of thicknesses, some of which include electrostatic capability for especially thin materials and textiles and a sticky mat holder for elastics and very thin textiles. Sample holders manufactured using white material conforming to ISO-13655-2007 which serves as a backing for the sample measured.
One challenge unique to measuring textiles is that the targets can be difficult to place the material in a sample holder, resulting in a distortion in the target positioning. In such instances, the readings could be taken on the incorrect patches. The Spectro LFP qb Textile Edition includes an Intelligent Chart Detection feature to address this potential problem. This involves integrated vision technology, a mounted camera driven by unique software algorithms that detect the center of each patch and ensure precise navigation resulting in accurate readings. This means that distorted targets can be efficiently and effectively measured, making this device incredibly unique, innovative, and valuable for textile applications.
Ease of Use
The “out-of-box” experience with the Spectro LFP qb Textile Edition is outstanding, the components fit together nicely and intuitively, and the device is set up in minutes. The included, easy-to-use Barbieri Gateway software interfaces with the instruments and enables the instrument functionality. It is also supported directly by an impressive list major vendors of RIPs and other color utility applications for direct interface to the device. The instrument can be connected via USB, Ethernet, or Wi-fi.
The instruction manual and utilities are clear and concise, backed up by attentive support from the factory.
Flexibility is the hallmark of the Spectro LFP qb Textile Edition as it can be used in many diverse applications. In addition to the ability to automatically read a vast array of substrates, the instrument offers several additional advantages in terms of flexibility that separate it from the current field of automated spectrophotometers. For example, the reading head can be de-attached and used for spot readings; this is especially useful in instances where single spot readings are required. As the same spectral reader is used for the automated readings, the variation of using two different devices is driven out of the process.
Further, the device offers three different user-selectable aperture sizes: 2mm, 6mm, and 8 mm; patches as small as 5mm can be measured. This particular feature is unique among currently available automated instruments and can be especially helpful in ensuring the accuracy of readings with substrates of varied textures and surface qualities. A polarization filter is also included, and users can take readings with M0, M1, M2, or M3 measurement conditions as defined by ISO 13655-2007. For readings that require a black background, users can simply affix an appropriate sheet with a density of 1.5 or higher to the sample holder.
In conclusion, the Spectro LFP qb Textile Edition is a remarkable, intuitive, and flexible instrument capable of automatically and accurately reading targets on a vast array of substrates. This makes it an ideal device for not only standard paper-based substrates but for textiles, transmissive applications such as backlit display, and many other materials commonly referred to as “specialty” graphics. The device can even read targets printed on glass, ceramic, and stone. As increasingly printers look to expand their portfolios into signage, textiles including direct-to-garment, and other non-paper applications, the Spectro LFP qb Textile Edition promises to be the one instrument that can grow along with their product offerings for color management applications.
The device is exceptional due to its ingenuity, ease of use, and flexibility.
This makes it an ideal device for not only standard paper-based substrates but for textiles, transmissive applications such as backlit display, and many other materials commonly referred to as “specialty” graphics.
Barbieri Spectro LFP qb Textile Edition:
Summary of features
RIT has been evaluating the Barbieri Spectro LFP qb Textile Edition for curricular and research applications. The following is a summary of the features of this device.
- Intelligent Chart Detection with a mounted camera and unique software algorithms to effectively read distorted samples, a common occurrence with certain textiles. This is huge.
- Sample Holders to accommodate various substrates including paper-based, films, and ceramics.
- Electrostatic sample holder for very thin substrates
- User-selectable apertures (2mm, 6mm, and 8mm) to measure patches as small as 5mm
- USB/Ethernet/WiFi connectivity
- Automatically reads transmission targets
- Detachable reading head for spot reading applications
- Easy to use Barbieri Gateway Software for instrument interface
- Polarization filter
- Sample holders adhere to ISO-13655-2007 for white backing, user can optionally use black sheet (Density > 1.5) for applications where black backing is required.
- Measurement readings possible for M0, M1, M2, M3 (ISO-13655-2007)
- Interfaces directly with major RIP and color management applications via SDK
The Barbieri Spectro LFP qb Textile Edition enables color management, including ICC-profiling, linearization, calibration of printed samples from myriad substrates. Effectively opens up color management activities to growth markets in specialty printing, previously limited to slow, mistake-prone, manual procedures.
The Barbieri is advertised on-line: follow this link. As a reference, the Gretag MacBeth Spectrolino+Spectroscan automated x,y solution sold for nearly $10,000 in 1998, adjusted for inflation that would be nearly $18,000 in 2022 dollars. The Spectro LFP qb textile edition has much more flexibility (e.g.: much faster reflective readings, automated transmissive readings) when compared to the Spectrolino+Spectroscan. Also, in 1998 X-Rite offered the DTP41-T strip reader for automated single strip readings of transmissive and reflective targets for nearly $7,000, adjusted for inflation that would be nearly $12,500 in 2022 dollars, but this device could not read the range of materials read by the Spectro LFP qb textile edition, was much slower and more difficult to use, and had fewer critical features.