Instrument Spotlight: Barbieri LFP
Instrument Spotlight: The Barbieri LFP
This issue’s Instrument Spotlight features the Italian racecar of spectrophotometers: The Barbieri LFP.
Hailing from a small town in the Italian Alps, the Barbieri company has been making instruments for many decades. The first LFP was introduced in 2004. They came out with the LFP Series 3 in 2010, and today’s top-of-the-line model is the LFPqb. Naturally,their products have a robust following in Europe, but the addition of a corporate office in New York and a service center in Utah has made them more readily available to the North American market; accordingly, they recently have sparked more interest in the US. Located a mere 100 kilometers from the famed Italian “Motor Valley,” I can’t help but wonder if the folks at Barbieri have been inspired by the precision engineering that goes on down the road at Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini. The company creed has always been about quality: Barbieri wants their customers to always be able to measure color in the most accurate way.
The LFP is a table-based spectrophotometer, which means there is a bed or table on which the media to be measured lies, and this table is moved underneath the measuring head to measure each patch. This makes for automated measuring: once you set the chart up to be measured, you can walk away and do other things while measurement occurs. This will naturally leave less room for human error than the hand-held devices we have spotlighted earlier. If you have been in the industry long enough to remember the old Gretag Macbeth SpectroScan tables, you have a general idea of how this works.
Any further comparison between the two is valueless when looking at the modern LFP. These units are very robust, accurate, and fast - they are capable of finishing a 960-patch chart in as few as 8 minutes using scan mode, a typical aperture, and no filter in the measurement. (Patch by patch measuring and the use of a polarizer will make measurements take longer.) The new LFPqb model is even faster.
This Spotlight will feature both the LFP Series 3 and the LFPqb because they both continue to be actively sold and supported. To continue my sports car analogy, the LFPqb is more of an ultra-high-performance Lamborghini, while the LFP 3 is more of an everyday-exotic Italian Alfa Romeo.
Special Features of the LFPqb
In CHROMiX’s Maxwell cloud-based color tracking system, we account for every kind of measuring condition that goes with the measurements that are collected. With all the instruments on the market, these variables can be quite numerous, including:
- Filters like M0, M1, M2, M3,
- Apertures like 2mm, 6mm, 8mm,
- Scan modes like reflective and transmissive,
- Whether a scan is done patch-by-patch or in a continuous swipe,
- How many measurements the instrument will take per patch,
- Environmental factors like temperature and humidity at time of measuring,
The reason I bring this up here is that the LFPqb can be set to any of the variables above. This is an instrument that can do just about *everything* and does it very well.
Here are some of the features unique to the LFPqb:
The addition of the M1 measurement mode brings this instrument into the modern world. M1 is recommended for most pressroom measurements nowadays. This can be combined with other measurement modes so that, for example, you can measure transmissively using M1.
The LFPqb’s camera vastly improves the speed of the auto chart recognition. The camera gives the LFPqb enough information about the placement of the chart that it can start measuring almost immediately. The camera is also called into play when measuring textiles. Fabrics are notorious for not laying square and can easily be skewed as one attempts to lay them out flat for measuring. The camera sees the angles of the fabric and compensates for that in the internal calculations of the chart dimensions. Barbieri makes a version of the LFPqb specifically for textile measuring.
Prior to the release of the LPFqb, customers who wanted a hand-held instrument to take spot measurements would have had to use a different tool than the LFP Series 3. Now, the LPFqb has a detachable measuring head (the spectral unit) that is battery operated and has a touchscreen on the top. Slide the head into the aiming guide to take spot measurements, make calculations, and view the results in Lab readings on the display.
Finally, the speed and smoothness of this new LFPqb is in a class by itself. It is so smooth, quiet, and fast that you might not realize it is scanning the first time you watch it.
Environmental sensors. The LFPqb head records the temperature and relative humidity from within the instrument with every measurement.
The official specs for the LFP series 3, require a chart size limited to 7.8 x 11.4 inches. This is the size of an “A4” sheet, which is a slightly longer version of the typical US “letter size:” 8.5 x 11 inch sheets. The LFPqb, however, can accommodate larger charts; up to 9x12 inches. Working with a large number of patches such as the IT8.7-5 can be done by measuring multiple pages.
One of the key features of these table-based instruments is that it can handle materials of different thicknesses. The measuring head will raise and lower according to the material to be measured. This makes it ideal for thick fabrics, glass, plastic, ceramic tile, or thicker papers. The upper limit for material thickness is 20 mm.
Barbieri places positioning bars around 2 sides of a target so the software can automatically locate the target on the page. Alternatively, a user can manually select 3 corners of a chart to tell the software where to measure.
Barbieri supplies the Gateway software that drives the instrument, takes measurements, and outputs the results in several industry-compatible formats that can be imported into profile-making software. A companion software piece called Chart Generator can be used to build LFP-specific charts based on a color list that you supply. The fact that there are so many choices in how to use this instrument can make the creation of a simple chart a little daunting. It is wise to expect to spend some time on this learning curve. Some profiling software packages, such as ColorAnt by ColorLogic, can also directly drive LFP series 3 and LFPqb.
CHROMiX products like Maxwell Client and Curve4 can directly drive these instruments. Like the Gateway software, CHROMiX’s measurement module, found in Curve4 and Maxwell Client, allows for both auto and manual positioning. This is another instrument that takes advantage of the Memory Scan function that allows the CHROMiX module to start scanning immediately when the chart is placed in the same spot on the table. We also allow the choice of different apertures, M modes, transmissive or reflective measurements, and other capabilities of the device.
If you are already familiar with the CHROMiX measuring modules, this is a great way to add an entirely new instrument to your system without having to learn new software to drive it. We can use target reference files from other instrument manufacturers to drive any of the instruments we support.
The Barbieri LFP can measure with no filter (M0 mode), with a UV-cut filter, and with a polarizing filter. The LFPqb has an entirely new measuring unit allowing it to use M0, M1, M2 and M3.
Both units can also measure color transmissively. There is something different about color as seen with light shining through it rather than reflected off the surface. Those wanting accurate profiles for prints that will be back-lit often find something lacking in the typical profiling packages that produce profiles for reflective light. There are very few spectrophotometers on the market that can measure transmissive light. Barbieri has been doing transmissive measurements for years and are very experienced in how to do this properly.
The LFP is pretty zippy compared to other (previous) table readers. The user has the option to have the head move up and down upon each patch, or scan the entire row just above the level of the media. The up-and-down option takes longer, but might increase accuracy in some situations. Polarized measurements and also transmissive measurements will slow things down depending on the opacity of the transmissive material, as well as the density of the color patch that is measured. The LFPqb is faster in every way than the LFP series 3.
The published spec reports the repeatability of these instruments at .2 dE2000, and the agreement between instruments to be 1.0 dE2000.
This is one of the few instruments that has multiple aperture options in one unit. 2mm is the default size for most finely-printed work. The uneven texture of fabrics make it desirable to use larger patches and a larger aperture in order to get a better overall representation of the color. To this end, Barberi can open up to a 6 mm aperture or even 8 mm. This is another reason why this instrument excels at measuring fabrics.
This is not considered a portable instrument.
Before the LFPqb came along, Barbieri would recommend their Spectropad instrument for those who want an instrument that is portable. However, one of the distinguishing characteristics of the LFPqb is that the measuring head can be detached from the unit and take spot measurements wirelessly. The data is displayed on the touch display on the top of the measuring head.
The entire LFP weighs in at a pretty hefty 24 lbs. (US). The LFPqb is 26 lbs.
Like a finely-tuned Italian sports car, all of this goodness comes at a price. The SpectroLFP retails for about $8000 plus accessories, the LFPqb for $11800 plus accessories.
This is one of the longer Spotlights we've produced, and still we have more we could say about these instruments. If anything here has sparked your interest, go ahead and call us to get more details about any of these features. There are so many features and options for these instruments it seems we have barely scratched the surface. And that's a shameful way to treat any Italian racer!
Thanks for reading,