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CIPS--Calculating Costs, Customizing Output

September 1998

In this latest installment in Printing Impressions' yearlong CIP3 focus, BARCO Graphics reports on its company's push to digitize ink key settings—even before Heidelberg's spearheading of CIP3—and the attributes of InkPlanner, an option on BARCO's FASTRIP/B.

Cutting costs. During press makereadies, valuable production time and paper are often wasted. Likewise, ink is an important cost factor in any commercial printing environment. Control over paper and control over ink are goals of every printer, especially those printing operations pursuing CIP3.

An early member of the CIP3 consortium, BARCO Graphics recognized the need for tighter control over all consumables within the production environment.

More specifically, BARCO's Belgium-based team of technical engineers recognized that what was needed to secure tighter reign over consumables in the pressroom may very well be more advanced, intelligent digitization in the prepress.

InkPlanner was the result.

BARCO's plug-in for ink zone presetting information for offset presses, InkPlanner can be generated at the prepress workstation and sent to the remote ink control systems found on the press.

BARCO's Peter De Mol, software R&D manager, Printer Systems Div., and Hans Dewitte, product manager, Packaging and Label Div., have been instrumental in motivating the direction of InkPlanner.

InkPlanner uses a dedicated RIP process or creates a plug-in in the RIP before the pixels are sent to output—for example, a bitmap file, film or a digital plate.

For each selected ink, InkPlanner counts the equivalent solid area of the image as it will be printed, depending on the halftone density of the images; the type of screen; and other variables. These counts are then used to calculate the total ink coverage or the coverage per ink key zone. The latter data can then be sent to the remote ink control system of the press in a specific, chosen format.

Apart from some dedicated formats, InkPlanner's main output format is the CIP3 Print Production Format (PPF) file. This file contains a low-resolution image calculated from the RIP. Contrary to the dedicated formats, the CIP3 file can be sent to a wide variety of presses.

The transport of the CIP3 file can be done in many ways. If the file is rather small, floppy disks can accompany the final plates. This is only feasible if the final format is not too big or if precision can be diminished. The CIP3 format demands 50 dpi for the low-res image, making floppy disks mostly too small for the bigger formats.

Mostly, CIP3 files are sent to the press stations over a network. BARCO Graphics' server architecture supports this kind of access. The press vendor's software then works on a Windows NT PC within the same network as the BARCO server. CIP3 files are left on the server and made visible to the PC in the network. The press vendor's software then converts the data to internal ink key data.

BARCO's Dewitte elaborates. "InkPlanner is suited both for a film workflow and for a direct-to-plate workflow. In the case of a direct-to-plate workflow, InkPlanner can take off non-printing zones," he explains.

Furthermore, InkPlanner allows the CIP3 file to be customized for specific use on specific presses, fully taking advantage of the syntactic possibilities given by the CIP3 administration data.

Where does BARCO see the PPF evolving—and how might Adobe, also a member of CIP3, impact PPF projections with the help of PDF?

Dewitte responds: "In the future, there will also be a PDF variant of the current PPF CIP3 data—both syntaxes have the same semantic contents and can be converted using simple conversion filters available in the market."

BARCO Fast Fact

A much appreciated extra feature of InkPlanner is its preview and report capabilities.

Although the CIP3 file typically does not contain the ink key setting data—since such data are calculated by the press vendor—InkPlanner can do ink key calculations and show them on-screen or put them into a report in PostScript or in spreadsheet formats.

This feature is quite interesting because most customers only have a limited number of CIP3-aware presses. Mostly, only newer presses can interpret CIP3 directly or indirectly. Older presses have manual settings. InkPlanner calculates these settings and puts them on a report, which can then accompany the plates.

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