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CIP3--Enabling the Digital Journey

August 1998

The seventh installment of Printing Impressions' ongoing focus on CIP3 visits ScriptWorks RIP manufacturer Harlequin, an early member of the CIP3 consortium. Currently in the final stages of beta testing a plug-in for CIP3's Print Production Format (PPF), Harlequin is working with its team of leading prepress OEMs to navigate the cutting edge of CIP3 developments.

FACT: NO longer are components of a prepress environment expected to work as an independent module of a commercial printing operation. Instead, the electronic prepress department is called upon, more and more, to function as the first leg of an advanced digital journey that ends just beyond the bindery at the operation's loading dock door.

This is the journey of CIP3.

It's young, no one will argue that, but so far CIP3 technology has caught the attention of dozens of industry innovators.

What is Harlequin's role in CIP3?

"Harlequin is building some enabling pieces of CIP3. We don't provide end-user solutions, but we do provide the underlying technologies and enabling components to deliver CIP3 to the end-user solution," reports Andrew Masia, director of product marketing, Digital Printing and Publishing, at Harlequin.

"It's well known that we are in the business of creating components for our OEMs, many of which are involved in CIP3."

Harlequin has tested and continues to evolve an output option for its ScriptWorks RIP Management System that generates CIP3 PPF files from any input format supported by the ScriptWorks RIP—PostScript, PDF, TIFF, TIFF/IT-P1, EPS and more. The resulting PPF files can be used in a CIP3-based workflow to preset ink keys on press, thereby closing the loop between prepress and print production.

The CIP3 PPF files are created by exactly the same RIP used to make film or plates, and enable ink keys to be set on-press quickly and easily. CIP3 file generation is as easy and automatic as generating the plates and films themselves. Using those files on-press can bring presses up to color faster by reducing makeready times and wastage, and removing the need for slow and expensive plate scanners.

Harlequin's CIP3 plug-in for ScriptWorks can take any PostScript, EPS, PDF or TIFF/IT-P1 file and repurpose it to a CIP3 file. The result is a file that can be used to finely tune ink key settings at the press, Masia explains.

Output files generated by Harlequin's CIP3 option have been tested with interfaces from Heidelberg and MAN Roland. Other press vendors and third-party add-on manufacturers are working with the CIP3 consortium to enable the same data to increase the efficiency of a large and growing number of presses worldwide.

"Harlequin has been involved in CIP3 from the beginning and remains committed to providing enabling technologies that allow our OEM partners to provide customer solutions that embody the CIP3 specification," Masia continues.

"The CIP3 PPF is already a very robust and expressive format with tremendous promise for end-user benefit."

CIP3 Q&A With Harlequin's Andrew Masia

Andrew Masia is director of product marketing, Harlequin Digital Printing and Publishing

Q: Why has Harlequin been an ardent supporter of CIP3?

A: Harlequin has always supported industry standards and open systems. CIP3 is important in this regard because it provides a language that enables the integration of press and finishing operations with the wide variety of automated prepress systems represented by Harlequin's 50 OEMs. Because this integration depends on the ability of hardware and software from many different vendors to work together, industry standard languages, interfaces and protocols are critical.

Q: Are there types of workflows that lend themselves to CIP3?

A: Those end users who have integrated imposition into their electronic prepress systems will be the first to make full use of applications that embody these emerging standards. For example, in order to automate the setting of ink keys, the CIP3 file must represent the entire printing form, and not just an individual page.

Q: Are imposed workflows the ones best suited to CIP3?

A: No. The CIP3 consortium has deliberately avoided specifying how a PPF file is to be used in a workflow. To do so would significantly limit its usefulness in real-world environments. The CIP3 file itself contains information about the printing form that can be used in a wide variety of ways that might differ from shop to shop.

In fact, the results of field trials of products designed to process PPF files by a number of CIP3 members have proven the file design to be robust and complete, and allow it to be used in a wide variety of ways.

How can users begin to do CIP3? Start by examining the workflow currently in use— and ask yourself where information is being recalculated.

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