A visit to FOGRA

The Blognosticator in Munich

A few days before Christmas I rode a subway to a regional train to another subway, then walked a bit to reach the headquarters of FOGRA, the Research Institute for Media Technologies in the town of Aschheim, just outside Munich.

FOGRA’s office in Aschheim, Germany. In the adjacent office is the German Printing Industry Association.

This for me was like a Springsteen fan walking on E Street, but the street in Aschheim is named after Einstein – fitting for the location of this organization.

My purpose in walking on Ensteinstraße that day was to make some measurements using FOGRA’s spectrophotometer. The similar device at my university in Munich will not work with the most recent version of the profiling software. I needed a more modern tool for this work, and FOGRA welcomed me to use theirs.

Berthold Oberhollenzer of FOGRA welcomed me at the entrance and took me up to the measurement lab where I rolled out my press sheet and cut the test panel out of it to put on the bed of the X-Rite i1IO 3 table.

The press sheet I had created was printed on a Landa Nanopress, the first in Europe, also located in Munich. The owner of that press, Blueprint, ran the test sheet for me to give me an opportunity to test the resolution, register, and color qualities of the Nanopress.

The X-Rite i1IO 3 instrument at FOGRA

I have made a lot of test sheets in my career, usually with color targets, with which to measure the behavior of various offset presses, wide-format ink-jet printers, electrophotographic printers and paper combinations. This was my first full size digital printing press (the Nanopress prints on B1 sheets – 1,000 x 700 mm or 39.37 x 27.55 in.). It is the same size as a Heidelberg 102.

The press has a native resolution of 1,200 ppi (472.4 px/cm). To test that, I used several line art scans I have made at various resolutions: 600, 800, 1,200 and 2,400 ppi. I also made straight and diagonal line sets at various thicknesses from 0.009 pt. (0.00317 mm) to 2 pt. (0.705 mm) and Helvetica Thin type from 1 pt. to 7 pt. – both black-on-white and white-on-black.

Landa’s Nanopress prints with seven colors of ink: CMYK plus orange, blue and green. This is one of the largest color gamuts of any printing press. And, since it uses ink-jet for printing, and because the ink is dry as soon as it touches the paper, there is little to contaminate the colors or reduce the glorious color possibilities of this machine.

This is my test sheet for the Landa Nanopress (before printing).

I wanted to measure that color space, so I put an RGB color target called an IT9.18 target on the page. The colors in this patch set are defined with RGB values, so I thought that, unhindered, I would get an expanded color gamut on my press sheet from the RGB target, one that would show off the three extra colors on the machine.

And, that is what brought me to FOGRA’s offices outside Munich.

A month earlier, I had picked up some press samples from Blueprint, and was dazzled by the colors on those press sheets. Glorious greens, zesty oranges, and boisterous blues were on the pages that I brought home from my first visit to the plant.

I wanted that same color gamut for my current project, a book about Munich street art, and the seven colors of the Nanopress were calling! I put an RGB image of a colorful hot-air balloon on the press sheet in five variations. Opening it from Camera Raw, I made one version of the image in Apple RGB, sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB (increasingly larger color gamuts). I expected the colors of the ProPhoto version to jump off the page because the color gamut of the Nanopress would closely match that of the image.

What happened is interesting: the sRGB photo looks “brightest” while the Adobe RGB image has the richest gamut. The ProPhoto photo turned a hideous shade of purple; it looks awful.

And, after reading the IT8.19 RGB target as interpreted by the Nanopress (the colors are actually processed by a version of the EFI Fiery RIP at the front-end of that press), the profile that I created is almost exactly the same shape and volume as sRGB.

I obviously did something wrong.

I tested rich black (20, 20, 20, 100) with white type reversed-out; that worked perfectly! There is almost no possibility of register error on the Nanopress because the ink is deposited onto a belt, then transferred to the paper as a complete image. Interestingly, the density of single-color 100 percent black is excellent – much denser than a similar ink on an offset press. I question whether rich black is even needed when printing to the Landa press.

I put a rainbow gradient in RGB across part of the sheet, and that failed in the range of oranges and reds on the left side. I don’t understand what happened there. Conversion of red, green and blue type looks great, and a photo of an orange pick-up truck reproduced beautifully, as did an image of a spiral Aloe plant that has some almost-alien greens in it.

My overall impression of the Nanopress is that it has incredible potential. The color gamut is huge (though I am not sure how to measure it), and the technical qualities of the press are extraordinary.

I will report more about the Nanopress in another blog coming soon.

About Brian Lawler

Brian Lawler is an Emeritus Professor of Graphic Communication at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and currently Guest Professor at Hochschule München. He writes about graphic arts processes and technologies for various industry publications, and on his blog, The Blognosticator.
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3 Responses to A visit to FOGRA

  1. Paul says:

    Guessing you mean B1 sheets for the Landa? Also it would be interesting to compare the Landa CMYK plus gamut with CMYKOVG profiles such as the Fogra 55.

    Using ColorThink, Fogra 51 CMYK gives a gamut of around 400,000 colours, Fogra 55 around 544,000.

    sRGB is around 832,000, eciRGB 1,330,000, ProPhoto, 2,500,000.

    Then, of course, there is the gamut intersections to consider. The largest CMYKplus gamuts I have seen are the device profiles from the newest Epson SC proofing inkjets at around 900,000

    • Brian Lawler says:

      Hi Paul,

      Thank you for your comment. My B1 error has been fixed, thank you.

      I agree that it would be interesting to compare these various gamuts. I avoided publishing the very small gamut I measured, because I have to assume that it was a result of something that I did wrong, and not a criticism of the Nanopress.

      It’s odd (suspicious) that the FOGRA39 gamut is slightly larger (especially in C) than the profile I built on the Nanopress.

      I am in communication with one of Landa’s color specialists in Israel, and I hope to have an answer from him soon to help me measure the behavior of this machine better.

      Another factor is that I don’t want to exceed my privilege at the printer’s plant. So far, they have been very generous with their time and their machine. I wouldn’t want to overstep that relationship.

      Best wishes, and thank you again,
      Brian P. Lawler
      The Blognosticator

  2. I felt exactly as you did when I went to train at Fogra back in 2016. One of those bucket list items for someone who’s been in print for 35+ years. Glad to see I’m not the only geek in that regard.

    I had the luck of working with Berthold as well, he’s wonderful!

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