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What's in your workflow?

Nov 1, 2004 12:00 AM


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Workflow has never been more critical. As Hal Hinderliter put it June 2003's “Real-world workflow”: “Efficiency goes beyond merely determining how much to charge per thousand copies or hour of press time. It requires connecting and digitally controlling all processes, from estimating and order entry to production, scheduling and billing. These connections must flow between workers and workstations within the printer's operation, as well as between its vendors and customers.”

Workflows have moved far beyond merely converting PostScript into one-bit TIFF data. A selection of recent product introductions follows, including some tools specifically designed for smaller operations.



Agfa's (Ridgeland Park, NJ) :ApogeeX proofing improvements include enhanced reproduction of spot-color solids and tints, as well as Pantone blends, duotones and tritones; accurate color reproductions from proof to print in dot-for-dot screened proofs from 1-bit digital data on :SherpaProofs; and additional remote proofing functionality with the :Sherpa Remote Proofing Controller.
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Creo's (Vancouver, Canada) Prinergy Evo targets small commercial printers transitioning to CTP. It offers advanced preflight, normalizing, color management, trapping and screening, an end-to-end native PDF workflow as well as JDF import/export for information exchange and system integration.
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Dalim Software's (Kehl, Germany) DALiM TWiST 5.0 offers built-in system failover; advanced load balancing; native PDF 1.4 and 1.5 file support; a new graphical user interface; PDF/X-1a: 2003, PDF/X-3: 2003, Pass4Press (V4), and PDF/X Plus file output; and preflight and color-separation mapping tools.

Users can work with a range of file formats, both open and proprietary and in the same workflow. TwiST has 168 standard workflow tools.

A built-in, JDF-driven preflighting engine allows job ticket information to pass transparently between Dalim Software servers and third-party systems. The engine can generate a JDF-based preflight report that also can be used as the base input data to generate a low-resolution PDF file of the job. This unique PDF file contains the JDF preflight report as text as well as hyperlinks within the PDF. The hyperlink information helps highlight the exact problem(s) for the user. See www.dalim.com.
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EFI's (Foster City, CA) OneFlow PDF-based prepress software provides centralized management of multiple digital, offset and inkjet printing devices. Users can automate prepress functions, integrating tools to automatically convert files to PDF, preflight, trap, impose, correct, RIP, soft proof and more. At Graph Expo, it was shown connected to a Fiery server and integrated with EFI's Hagen, Logic and PSI management systems. See www.efi.com.
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Global Graphics' (Centreville, VA) JDF Enabler provides JDF support for the Harlequin RIP; TrapPro in-RIP trapping; ColorPro in-RIP color management and the Harlequin Screening Library. See www.globalgraphics.com.
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MAN Roland's (Westmont, IL) printnet network solution lets users integrate their production workflows with the MIS of their choice, for an end-to-end JDF-driven workflow. Graph Expo's CIMcity demonstrated how printnet can link JDF-compliant software from various manufacturers.

Participants included EFI (its Hagen MIS integrated estimating and invoicing); Creo (Prinergy workflow, Magnus VLF platesetter and Synapse Link JDF connection); MBO (Perfection folder and Data Manager JDF-driven connection); and Muller Martini (its BravoPlus Amrys saddlestitcher converted the workflow's printed signatures into finished products).
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PolkaDots Software's (Quebec, Canada) PrePage-it lets users upgrade an existing Harlequin RIP, transforming init to a database-driven workflow. It can be used to upgrade any third-party OEM version of Windows Harlequin RIPs or be bundled with Polkadots' OEM version of Harlequin Eclipse: Rasterize-it. See www.polkadots.ca.
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Screen's (Rolling Meadows, IL) Trueflow PDF workflow can drive platesetters and digital printing presses as well as create an automated, networked workflow. Existing users can easily move from a PDF and PostScript workflow into a JDF-based environment. Trueflow automates preflight, overprint, auto-trapping, imposition and output in multiple formats. “Polished PDF IN” provides dual functionality and incorporates the latest Enfocus Library. Incoming files are checked and formatted into PDF or PDF/X-1a.
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Xinet's (Berkeley, CA) WebNative application plug-in for Adobe InDesign CS as well as a Versioning plug-in for Adobe PhotoShop can help users manage image-naming conventions. The WebNative Versioning plug-in for PhotoShop (for Mac OS 9/X) automatically creates new versions of files following a naming convention specified by the administrator. Also new in Web Native: triggers and actions for database-driven automated workflows and “File Connections,” an easy way to display all layouts linking to a file/image. See www.xinet.com.
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Xitron (Ann Arbor, MI) offers JDF-enabled versions of its Navigator Harlequin RIP, XiFlow (a prepress workflow for Navigator and other Harlequin RIPs) and Xenith Extreme Adobe RIP. XiFlow runs as a server and controls the flow of jobs for up to three Harlequin RIPs simultaneously. Client software for both PCs and Macs allow prepress operators to direct jobs through a workflow without leaving their workstations. Xenith 4 PDF is an Adobe Extreme-compliant workflow with tools including PDF creation, Certified PDF, built-in preflighting, in-RIP trapping, NORM proofing, and unlimited Macintosh and Windows clients. Xenith 4 PDF users can easily upgrade to Xenith Extreme when they add devices larger than 30 × 30 inches. See www.xitron.com.
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Key features of Rampage Systems' (Waltham, MA) Rampage JVX include:
  • automatic imposition using templates in JDF format from third-party applications
  • integration with third-party MIS packages for job creation, tracking, costing, and analysis via Job Messaging Format.
  • remote job submission via FTP hot folders.
  • automatic JDF-based step-and-repeat and other flexo features.
  • a distiller plug-in for cleaning incoming PDF files.
  • automatic versioning.

Rampage JVX also retains popular features from older versions, such as automatic trapping, built-in picture replacement (OPI), a client-server architecture supporting Mac OS9/X, and proofing from Rampage Digital Masters. See www.rampageinc.com.
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RIPit Computer Corp.'s (Citrus Heights, CA) OpenRIP can natively control more than 100 imagesetters, platesetters, printers and plotters, as well as a wide range of PostScript and TIFF-it devices from a single interface. OpenRip Symphony is an Adobe PostScript 3 RIP that integrates scanning, trapping, proofing and imposition into a single package. Symphony provides those features to any output device that can accept PostScript or TIFF files.
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Xerox (Rochester, NY) released four new products within its FreeFlow Digital Workflow:
  • Process Manager lets print shop operators prebuild workflows for automatic document preparation, proofing and printing.
  • Web Services provides a digital storefront for customer job ordering and management, enabling printers' customers to view, modify and order documents for production.
  • Makeready is a central hub for key prepress activities that makes it easier to finalize documents for production.
  • Print Manager offers an integrated printer manager/job ticketing workflow that is a single point of access to both digital and offset devices, allowing users to select the most economical output device. See www.xerox.com.
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Are you experienced?
Heidelberg's (Kennesaw, GA) Prinect Experience brought JDF to life for Graph Expo visitors. A series of eight integrated workstations showcased Prinect, Heidelberg's approach to JDF-enabled computer-integrated manufacturing. Using CIP3-PPF and CIP4-JDF, Prinect tracks and optimizes jobs from order entry through postpress.

With JDF job tickets in hand, participants followed the job of their choice (postcard, poster, double gatefold or A4- or A5-sized brochure). Tour stops included Prinance (MIS); Signa Station (imposition); Printready (JDF-based workflow); Metadimension (RIP/workflow); Prepress Interface (ink key setting and other press/postpress presets); CP2000 Center (press control; Polar Compucut (cutting program calculator); FCS 100 Compufold (folding calculator); and FCS 100 Compustitch (stitching calculator).

“JDF represents an opportunity for the industry to work more efficiently, productively and profitably,” said James Mauro, product manager, Prinect press products, Heidelberg USA. “Used properly, it promises to bring the efficiencies of CIM to printing that has been available to other computerized and mechanized manufacturing industries for years.”



PDF workflow now; CTP later
Fritz Wienecke, owner of the eponymous Fritz The Printer (Brea, CA), is 47 years old. At his age, he says it's not easy to learn something new. So two years ago, when he wanted to move his five-employee, 4,000-sq.-ft. shop to the digital age, ease of use was among his top workflow priorities.

Other requirements included:

  • file integrity from proofing to final output.
  • reliable in-RIP trapping.
  • an Adobe core RIP.
  • a PDF workflow.
  • support for PostScript 3 and PDF 1.4 with transparency.

Fritz's press room features two two-color presses (Hamada and Heidelberg) and a Ryobi four-color press. Until a year ago, the prepress setup consisted of a Harlequin 5.3 RIP driving a Scitex Dolev 400 imagesetter. Dynagram's DynaStrip is used for imposition and an Epson inkjet device covers proofing requirements.

“We weren't sure of which plate technology would be the best fit for us down the road,” explains Wiencker. “We knew we wanted to go to an all-digital workflow soon, and someday add-in CTP. We figured the right plate technology would emerge over time, but did not want to wait for this to start the evolution to a digital workflow.”

A GUI for the average guy
After narrowing their choices to four vendors' workflow products, Fritz and his fellow employees selected Xitron's (Ann Arbor, MI) Xenith Extreme. Based on Adobe's PostScript 3 interpreter, Xenith offers functionality ranging from portable job tickets, remote clients and in-RIP trapping.

“We chose Xenith Extreme because the GUI looked logical and simple,” says Wienecke. “Also, the imposition looked like it would integrate well and the preview was really nice. We thought it looked better than the other systems, and the slam dunk was the pricing.”

Although the company didn't yet have a platesetter, this wasn't a problem. “Xenith isn't dependent on a certain platesetter,” notes Wienecke.

Faster turnaround with better file integrity
Six months after installing the new workflow, Fritz the Printer added a Presstek Dimension 400 platesetter. “We're definitely more competitive with this workflow and platesetter,” says Wiencke. “The speed of RIPping and trapping, the imposition tools and the ability to email a RIPped PDF to the customer for proofing all factor into the increased productivity. Xenith RIPs the files for both the proofer and for final output, maintaining consistency.”

Wiencke says it previously could take hours to get a two-color business card to film because of transparency or other output issues, or problems with MS Word files. “If we hadn't done this, we probably couldn't have stayed in business,” says the printer. “We save a lot of time.” See www.xitron.com.
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Workflow Worth-a-looks
The following workflow vendors won “Worth-a-look” honors at Graph Expo:

  • Agfa Corp. (Delano)
  • Creo Inc. (Brisque 5.0)
  • Creo Inc. (Prinergy Evo)
  • DALiM Software (TwiST)
  • Enfocus Software (Instant PDF 3.0)
  • Esko-Graphics (Scope)
  • EFI (Fiery Q5000)
  • Polkadots Software (PrePage-it)
  • Xerox (FreeFlow)

Contact us at apeditor@primediabusiness.com.