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CIP3?An Ultimate Beginning

January 1998
CIP3 is the International Cooperation for the Integration of Prepress, Press and Postpress, launched in 1995 by a team of prepress, press and postpress industry innovators, with German pressmaker Heidelberger Druckmaschinen serving as catalyst.

As the industry begins to pay closer attention to CIP3, the consortium—now more than 30 members strong—continues its initiative of establishing an open standard for exchanging digital information from prepress to postpress stages.

Each month throughout 1998, Printing Impressions will profile one specific member of the CIP3 consortium, from software developers to digital prepress innovators to press manufacturers to postpress players.

Ultimate Technographics, an imposition software pioneer, will launch our year-long look at the journey of CIP3.

At the forefront of imposition advancements in CIP3's Print Production Format (PPF) is a strong but, until recently, relatively small prepress technology vendor based out of Montreal.

When it comes to advancing the move to digitally link production from the prepress stage to the last fold of the bindery, Ultimate Technographics might be to David what CIP3 is to the role of Goliath.

This time, the two are allies, and the David—David Watson, founder and president of Ultimate—isn't throwing any stones at the giant that stands before him.

To the contrary, Watson is all too eager to assist in the advancement of the International Cooperation for Integration of Prepress, Press and Postpress. It is Ultimate's belief—and David Watson's conviction—that the printing process can deliver more with proper computer integration of the manufacturing process. Watson is convinced that CIP3 is a first step in this direction.

Ultimate's CIP3 Journey
The possibility for a CIP3-type of industry cooperation was created by the emergence of electronic imposition. A digital representation of the entire printing plate, instead of individual pages, was a necessary enabling technology to link prepress, press and postpress production.

In 1989 Ultimate Technographics introduced Impostrip, the first electronic imposition software to the commercial printing market. By 1990, Ultimate's Watson was ready to use DRUPA as an informal forum for discussing with industry press and postpress equipment manufacturers the possibility of linking the three areas of production together.

His argument: Imposition software controls the linking process, because it mirrors the planning processes of a production stream in a printing plant. Within a short time, early steps were made with transferring image data from a proprietary system to an ink control unit of a particular manufacturer.

But it was not until DRUPA 1995 that an industry-wide initiative was launched to define a data interchange standard—known as CIP3.

Today, one of the first CIP3 software developers, Ultimate Technographics advises the CIP3 consortium on critical imposition and trapping issues relevant to the standard. What is Watson's opinion of CIP3 at present? It's, well, fair.

"Early implementation testing has concentrated on linking some RIPs from prepress manufacturers to the color control units—this approach, however, has some important limitations," he explains.

"A RIP is incapable of creating a complete CIP3 PPF file because it does not know exactly what information on a complete plate is necessary for folding, cutting and finishing equipment. Even for ink data it is inadequate because often more than one piece of film is used for the plate, so the RIP does not have all the plate data available," he continues.

The RIP also is set to output the dot gain up to the film or plate imaged, but does not take into account the dot gain once the plate is on press through to the paper. This fact, Watson reports, is major.

An Ultimate Contribution
According to Watson, Ultimate is the first to solve these problems because it implemented all the necessary control information in Impostrip to generate complete CIP3 data, and combined this with an Adobe software RIP set to the exact needs of ink control units. This allows for complete plate analysis—even if the plate film is output in pieces—and it allows the setting of factors, like dot gain, to the exact press conditions independent of the RIP that actually images the plate.

The software developer's revamped Impostrip also has the benefit of allowing CIP3 file generation prior to the actual imaging of the plates. This information can be transmitted to the press even before the last plate is ready.

"Ultimate is also solving a problem that many printers have, which is press equipment that does not have a CIP3 input option," Watson reports.

He's referring to Ultimate's INKtouch, which is a universal interface to take CIP3 data—or any PostScript or TIFF data—and convert it to ink zone control data. INKtouch processes all the data for CTP imaging and determines the appropriate ink key settings for each ink zone of a printing press, passing that information to the color control units of the printing press. INKtouch uses a touchscreen on a Windows NT workstation.

"CIP3 is just the beginning of complete computer integration in printing. It is an enabling technology on which entire workflow management systems will be built," Watson projects.

Rest assured that with Watson—who is also president of Harpell Printing, a sheetfed and heatset web printer and book bindery in Montreal and Ottawa—vitally involved in CIP3, the consortium is positioned for great contributions.

Watson would bet Harpell on it. In fact, his successful printing operation is currently implementing a complete CIP3-based workflow. "CIP3 will deliver great promise to the industry," Watson, the printer, assures. "Stay tuned for tremendous advancements."

—Marie Ranoia Alonso

In February, look for the CIP3 activities of Scitex, with a focus on CIP3 as it relates to Scitex's Lotem workflow. Expect to learn about a sampling of the Scitex CIP3 effort—in the United States and abroad.
 

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