Having grown with the soft-furnishing industry for more than 26 years, The IceHouse has witnessed some extraordinary changes. Most recently, the industry has moved from creating the vast majority of fabric samples from actual cuts of material to simply printing samples in brochures, which is far more cost-effective.
The IceHouse’s proofer at the time was not up to the task of reliably printing samples in brochures, so the printer looked for a dependable digital proofing solution to marry to its existing offset press.
Mark Ashcroft, The IceHouse art director, says, "They say colour correcting to fabric is one of the hardest things. What we create on our offset press has to match the actual fabric as closely as possible so if a customer looks in the brochure, they know what they’re going to get. Colour control is pretty much what we’re all about – and this is why a reliable digital proofing solution was critical for us."
To create a brochure, The IceHouse typically photographs or scans an actual fabric sample and then creates a digital proof before offset printing. According to Ashcroft, The IceHouse’s previous proofing machine had output that would vary from day to day. Staff were never sure what colours they were going to get when the job went to press – quite important when you’re talking about fabrics and the colours people are choosing for lounge suites.
"The iR C3200 has really come through. We can rely on it to provide consistent colours throughout the proofing process. This is an integral part of what we do. It’s great to have a solution that just works and that’s why we’re really pumping the work through it. About 25,000 impressions a month is average for us," says Ashcroft.
One of the disadvantages of producing samples in a printed format is that users can’t see the full width of the fabric on the roll. This is important, as the section of fabric that The IceHouse scans and reproduces might not fully represent the abstract pattern on the roll.
The solution is to provide a picture of the full length of the roll in each book. However, this might equate to only 500 or 1000 A4 printouts -– a very small run to send to an offset press. What’s more, printing them on the company’s previous proofing device would take a day – and include surprising variations in colour that are, naturally, unacceptable.
"When I used to print 800 A4 prints through the old machine, it would take me about eight hours of feeding the machine and constantly checking it for quality. Whereas the Canon can take more paper – it holds 1000 sheets – and less than half an hour later, the job’s done. That’s a fraction of the time of our old machine – and the colour is consistent," says Ashcroft.
The company says it no longer loses time and money while its designers, essentially, watch the machine print and make occasional colour corrections for eight hours at a stretch. The IceHouse previously was also forced to outsource this work in some instances, as it couldn’t afford to tie up its proofing machine for hours on end. The local designers and printers were charging twice what it now costs to produce colour material on the iR C3200 – another cost saving for The IceHouse.
The Mailbox tool is also playing its part in ensuring the iR C3200’s ongoing popularity among staff at The IceHouse, according to Ashcroft.
"If a member of staff wants some stationery, they can go straight to the Canon and pull up the material saved in their letterbox and print it straight out. This empowers them to get their own material without always having to come through the designers. Once we’ve printed material to a mailbox, we don’t have to provide it again – and the staff member is free to use it whenever they require," says Ashcroft.
Thanks to its ability to print on thicker paper stocks, the iR C3200 is also taking care of business cards that The IceHouse would have previously sent to offset printing. This is particularly useful for short-run jobs.
In a similar vein, The IceHouse has also been able to produce colour newsletters for major Australian organisations directly from the iR C3200, avoiding the costs of going to film on a four-colour job, creating plates, and so forth.
All of this saves The IceHouse and, in turn, its customers, significant amounts of money.
"Our old machine was a nightmare. If I had to reprint inserts for 300 sample books, I’d have to match what I had previously and 100 per cent of the time I’d have to go back into Photoshop and colour correct for the second run. Thanks to its accurate colours, the iR C3200 provides measurable cost savings in terms of time," says Ashcroft.