Cloud-based Printer Color Management Technology

Due to increased diversity in the applications of production printers, it is now increasingly common to see customers operating multiple printers over different worksites. In such decentralized setups, it becomes necessary to maintain consistent, accurate color output across individual devices—a task requiring the knowledge of specialists. However, due to varying levels in operator experience and factors limiting communication between locations, it is difficult for users to standardize the settings, adjustment methods, and evaluation results of color across multiple devices. To address these issues, Fuji Xerox has developed a cloud-based color management technology designed to carry out efficient coordination of printer color output (Fig. 1), and in doing so, simplify the tasks of operators working in separate geographical locations.

Precise color measurement via simple operations

Conventionally, printer color management is carried out by printing a color patch chart, measuring the printed colors with a spectrophotometer, and adjusting accordingly based on the results. This time-consuming process is then repeated until output matches the target. To improve this process, Fuji Xerox has developed new technology to simplify the required operations while maintaining the high precision necessary. A key feature of this technology is its new scan profile generation method. Using a scanner or inline sensor, the technology captures RGB data from custom charts (containing fewer color patches than standard charts) and converts these to high precision LAB data (Fig. 2). This process allows for significant reductions in measuring time (Fig. 3) while maintaining a level of precision almost identical to that attained through measurement via a spectrophotometer.

Simplicity of operation removes the need for specialist knowledge

When printed color does not match its target, it is not always easy to ascertain the causes of color drift or the adjustments that need to be made, even when quantified results are available. Also, with various methods of adjustment available, it takes time to determine which methods should be used, and again to perform these. Furthermore, if done incorrectly, print quality may suffer. To address these issues, Fuji Xerox has created additional technology that, through analysis of multiple color-impacting items, carries out diagnosis and determines the necessary color adjustment procedures (Fig. 4).
Specific causes are first isolated through an analysis of color evaluation results, and in accordance with these, detailed procedures regarding what adjustments are necessary are then provided. For example, if color issues are linked to operator error, information on the correct settings or how to redo a task is provided. If the cause is deemed to be device or configuration-related, it will determine if the issue is server-side or in the printer itself, and provide appropriate adjustment information such as whether to carry out calibration or profile adjustment. Profile adjustments are necessary when there is an overall drift in the color gamut, and this technology now removes the need to print a new chart to perform such adjustments. By comparing LAB data from custom chart evaluation results with LAB data from the device link profile, color drift is calculated and the appropriate adjustments carried out.

The arrival of cloud-based color management

By monitoring the statuses of printers in separate locations and informing operators accordingly when it is necessary to make adjustments, Fuji Xerox’s cloud-based printer color management technology enables efficient management of decentralized, multiple-printer installations. The management server contains a function for managing and creating reports on evaluation data from multiple printers and a function for the sharing of initial color management configuration settings. In the management function, custom charts are printed out using the application software on individual printer servers and color measurement and evaluation data retrieved from printers in various locations. This data is then sent automatically to the management server where results are collated for easy referencing (Fig. 5) and for the creation of reports for specific times and for data over time (Fig. 6).

The sharing function allows the printer color management settings of one printer to be applied across other printers by downloading settings from the management server. This allows settings regarding paper, color reproduction targets, etc. to be shared (i.e., no longer limited to individual devices), which aids efficiency though reduced setting errors. With this technology, it is now possible to monitor the statuses of multiple printers at once from a remote location and provide appropriate adjustment instructions as required.