Q&A With Ann Crum

Sharing the page with an industry legend.

Being a part of GRAPHICS PRO magazine is a wonderful opportunity to explore the diverse topics covered within its pages. As regular readers know, I’m passionate about discussing mindset-related themes, business management, and more. However, I also recognize the importance of providing a variety of practical, how-to topics. With my 24 years in the industry and the opportunity to travel and connect with numerous professionals, I always have a network of experts to call upon for areas outside my expertise.

This month, the magazine is focusing on ink systems, which is crucial to our success in the graphics market. I’ve turned to my go-to ink person, Ann Crum, director of Phoenix Inkjet & Colour Solutions LLC. I have asked her to co-write this article with me so that we can all benefit from her wealth of knowledge. I posed some of the questions to Ann, and she came back with this pot of gold for GRAPHICS PRO readers.

Q: Can you help us decipher the major ink types and their unique properties and applications?

A: There are a few basic types of ink — aqueous, solvent, and UV curable. Aqueous inks are the most eco-friendly inks, and they can be used in a wide variety of applications, from paper to fabric and just about everything in between. Solvent inks are used for applications where the print needs to be more durable than what water can provide. This type of ink is often found in packaging applications where expiration dates are listed on products that may include plastic or film. UV curable inks are a class of ink used to print on a wide variety of plastic and metal substrates.

Q: Can you unlock some of the challenges large-format printers may face?

A: The key is finding the perfect balance of properties for each application. Every formulation change can have positive or negative effects. We’re constantly working to improve ink performance on various substrates, balancing it with longer head life and a wider color gamut. I feel like this is a key takeaway. Your ink system is a balancing act between the life of your printhead, performance on the job you are taking on, and finding the right color to fit your customer’s needs. This tells me there is the right tool for each job and your responsibility as a business owner is to determine which factor is most important for you.

Q: Cost isn’t the sole consideration in today’s printing industry, would you say that sustainability is equally pivotal?

A: Ink is getting more eco-friendly and sustainable because the market demands it. This is why there is a bigger push to use aqueous systems and UV curable over solvent-based inks. Additionally, governments worldwide are also forcing the issue with constant legislative changes that are affecting the print industry.

Q: This theme of balancing different needs extends to cost-efficiency as well, right?

A:At companies like ours, Phoenix Inkjet & Colour Solutions, we’re all about balancing customer needs with our ability to formulate economically. We also strive to use top-quality materials that ensure the best printer performance. Standard products are offered under this umbrella, but sometimes customization is needed. With customized products, it’s important to manage the customer’s expectation on cost as well as continue to provide high-quality items. We try to achieve this by working closely together from the formulation to commercialization cycle.

Q: Beyond choosing the ink system that is right for you — and facing those challenges and opportunities — I know based on experience seeing clogged print heads and ink systems that won’t work when we need them to work, that maintenance also a crucial aspect of the ink system discussion. Agree?

A: Printers really need to follow the recommended schedules to get the best out of their ink and heads. Skipping steps could cause issues during critical print cycles, so it’s worth taking the time to do the maintenance.

Q: Of course, no discussion I’m involved in would be complete without trying to peer into the future. Since you’re so well versed in ink technology, what wonderful insights do you have for us?

A: The industry is going to continue to push the envelope of ink technology. Wider gamut, more difficult substrates, and unique applications are already challenging ink providers. Printers are going to continue to get creative with what they want to print, and ink providers are going to need to be prepared to tackle anything thrown at them. Packaging is an area that is going to grow exponentially as print technology continues to improve and move away from offset. Additionally, the push to move away from plastics will also open the door to more opportunities in print with new substrates. Overall, the ability to print variable data with the flexibility of shorter runs has proven effective in so many areas of print, and this trend will continue.

Q: One of the other amazing roles you play is as a founding member of the Women in Print Alliance. Though it might seem unrelated, I could not pass up this opportunity to ask about this organization, so that the women reading this and the men like me who support diversity in our industry can learn a little more about how we can connect and advance women in the print community. Can you share a little about Women in Print Alliance and how diversity in our industry is the key to long-term success?

A: The Women in Print Alliance is a community of women who work in various segments of the printing industry at all stages in our careers. Our mission is pretty simple: to attract, retain, and advance women within the print industry through multiple forums including education, personal and professional development, networking, and building community for women throughout print. What does this mean? There is still a substantial gender gap in this traditionally male industry. We are working to address this situation for all women who have or want to have a career in print — from those who are about to take on a new career path and might find it challenging to those who have been here a while who have valuable lessons to share with female colleagues. Furthermore, we are committed to educating the broader print community on the societal benefits of a diverse workforce that can create a culture where everyone can thrive. I invite anyone to connect with us and subscribe to our free newsletter by visiting us online at womeninprintalliance.org. GP

Aaron Montgomery

Aaron Montgomery

Our Success Group

Aaron Montgomery is certified by New York Times best-selling author Jack Canfield as a Success Principles Trainer and has nearly 30 years of experience providing essential support to small businesses. His company, Our Success Group, assists with setting and reaching goals, creating a solid business plan, knowing their numbers for a better pricing strategy, and establishing a customer-focused approach while devising a targeted marketing strategy. He is the author of the business foundation book ‘The FUNdamentals of Business Success.’ He is the Co-Founder of a facilitated 6-month Mastermind collective called Radical Goal-Getters. You can also find him hosting a weekly show called Small Business Saturdays and co-hosting the 2 Regular Guys Podcast.

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Ann Crum

Ann Crum

Phoenix Inkjet & Colour Solutions LLC

Ann Crum is the owner of Phoenix Inkjet & Colour Solutions LLC, a worldwide digital inkjet ink and consumables supplier to the printing industry. Ann is also a founding member of the Women in Print Alliance.

View all articles by Ann Crum   Visit Website

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