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CIP3--Creating the Print Link to Digital Profit

October 1998

The latest installment of Printing Impressions' year-long report on CIP3 initiatives visits Vancouver, Canada-based thermal imaging innovator Creo Products, recently awarded a GATF InterTech Award for PrintLink, Creo's digital ink key preset software that boosts operational efficiency by bringing CIP3 into the picture.

Beyond its role as a thermal imaging technology innovator, Creo is a member of the CIP3 consortium that developed the industry standard for exchanging information between print production devices.

At Creo, CIP3 is PrintLink.

How does PrintLink link?

  • PrintLink generates CIP3-compliant Print Production Format (PPF) files during platemaking that define ink coverage on a plate precisely.

  • PrintLink delivers these files via a direct digital connection to press interfaces like the Heidelberg CPC32, and CIP3-compliant systems from other vendors, which generate press-specific ink key preset data.

  • PrintLink exploits the accuracy of Creo's SQUAREspot thermal imaging technology, which uses precisely formed square spots to create consistent, repeatable halftone dots.

  • PrintLink computes ink coverage from the identical bitmap used to image the plate to ensure unrivaled accuracy.

Available as a software option with Creo's Allegro RIP workstations, PrintLink is configured by a simple dialog that establishes PPF file generation and routing for each plate type imaged by the platesetter or Trendsetter.

Once the system is configured, PrintLink requires no operator interaction. Besides indicating ink coverage, PrintLink's PPF file identifies the job and plate, and describes the print form geometry. The latter information instructs the press interface to exclude slug lines and take-off bars from ink preset calculations.

To complement PrintLink, Creo has field-tested several press interface systems from various press manufacturers, plate scanner suppliers and ink delivery systems.

"Digital ink key preset technology will revolutionize the economy of printing," asserts PrintLink Product Manager John Fowler. "The success of the methodology is a result of close cooperation among both competing and complementary vendors to ensure a high-quality standard for the entire industry."

Recently, R.R. Donnelley & Sons successfully installed PrintLink at its Roanoke, VA, facility, which manufactures hard-cover and soft-cover books using web offset and digital printing technologies. The plant runs Heidelberg Harris M-600 presses with the CPC32 prepress interface, which presets the ink keys on the CPC1 press console using PrintLink PPF files.

"The results are stunning," reports Ken Scoville, technical services representative at the Roanoke facility. "Since the implementation of PrintLink, there have been huge process improvements—the pressroom can't live without it. In fact, the pressmen put a lot of pressure on us to keep it running because they know all too well the pains of manual plate scanning."

Make sure to visit the CIP3 Web site at to get up-to-the-minute reports on the international consortium's activities regarding the Print Production Format, now beyond version 3.0, which allows for control of postpress operations.

Fast Facts:

One of the major goals of the CIP3 effort is to allow all ink zone settings on the press to be controlled by digital data available at the front-end. The primary goal of CIP3's Print Production Format (PPF) is to reduce the effort required to set up different devices during the production process.

In Creo's CIP3 offering—PrintLink—ink coverage information is computed as a plate is being imaged in the Trendsetter or platesetter. The data, and other press setup information, are stored in a file that is delivered via the network to a press interface.

SQUAREspot thermal imaging technology uses precisely formed square spots to create consistent, repeatable, halftone dots. Creo contends that the square shape means that, unlike spots generated by conventional and other thermal imaging systems, its spots can be precisely knit together to form any shape of final halftone dot.

The Power of Cooperation

Dave Brown, vice president at Creo, believes CIP3 is a great example of the power of cooperation between vendors. Here's why...

While the standard may evolve over time, it has already allowed a number of press manufacturers, prepress vendors and ink control system suppliers to establish a common link to deliver this capability to customers.

This is significant. Without a common standard, today we would have only a few islands of automation.

Vendors supporting one-to-one links between press and prepress would be faced with expensive development and support for each combination. Some combinations might never be supported.

Now we can see the advent of systems that let printers connect almost any press—and gain the significant benefit of a fully digital manufacturing process.

All thanks to cooperation.

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