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DIGITAL digest 3-01

March 2001

Digital Ins and Outs

Tech Alert is the yearly conference at which the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF) presents the results of its latest original research studies. At the recently held 2001 conference, studies presented in the digital arena included "Digital Imaging Press Print Attributes," "Digital Photography" and "Remote Proofing—State-of-the-Art Report."

According to Dr. Richard M. Adams, study presenter and a GATF research scientist, the digital imaging press study wasn't intended to be a "shoot out," whereby output from competing devices is compared to determine the "winner."

Still, manufacturers of the presses in question were asked to print press sheets from a digital color target provided by GATF. Densitometric analyses were then performed on those press sheets. The study report just includes the raw measurement data, however. It was left up to report readers to interpret any head-to-head comparisons they might choose to make.

Looking at the results in sum, though, it was possible for the researchers to draw several conclusions, according to Dr. Adams. For one, "direct-imaging presses print relatively similar to conventional presses," he asserts, and "calibration is important for accurate tone reproduction with these devices."

Adams also says that there is a need to distinguish between the terms "DI" (digital imaging) press, which by virtue of a trademark is supposed to be limited to devices using imaging technology from Presstek, and "DOP" (direct on- press), which is the generic term for imaging technologies from companies such as CreoScitex.

The list of DI presses studied included the Adast 755C DI, Heidelberg Quickmaster DI and Ryobi 3404 DI. The DOP models included the Heidelberg Speedmaster 74, Karat 74, Komori Project D and Screen TruePress.

In at least one sense, the "Digital Photography Survey" was a shoot out. Presenter Greg Bassinger, manager of the GATF Process Controls and Preucil Print Analysis Laboratory, challenged the audience to identify which shot out of six of the same image on a press sheet was taken via conventional photography, versus an assortment of digital cameras.

Bassinger believes the image quality of digital cameras has reached the point were it can meet or exceed that of film. His contention is backed up by the GATF survey results, with 84 percent of respondents saying digital systems produce "equal or better quality" compared to film.

According to the report, more than 14 percent of printers surveyed now offer some form of digital photography service, which is up from 9 percent last year. Catalog printers continue to represent the largest user community.

Strictly as a personal observation, Bassinger says he is surprised the study didn't find greater use of, and potential buyer interest in, multifunction cameras. Such devices are designed to offer greater flexibility by providing the option to capture an image in a single shot, for speed, or in a series of shots, if a higher resolution is required.

Howie Fenton, GATF senior technical consultant/digital technology, says he brought the opposite perspective—that of a skeptic—to his role in researching remote proofing.

Fenton reveals that he bet fellow staff member Jim Workman that he couldn't find even five companies that were using remote proofing in a printing workflow.

Workman was able to come up with six names from the recently released GATF "Digital Proofing Study, Part VI," so Fenton was assigned the remote proofing study.

This workflow concept had been a "hot" topic for some years based on the idea of locating a hard-copy color output device in a customer site and sending files over telecommunication lines, Fenton notes.

The GATF consultant currently sees greater potential in remote soft (on-screen) proofing, since there are fewer barriers to its adoption. The concept is benefiting from ongoing improvements in monitor technology, the decreasing cost and wider availability of high-speed data lines, and new technology innovations, according to Fenton.

For more information on Tech Alert, visit www.gain.net.


Digital Bytes . . .

NEW YORK CITY—Students in the Graphic Communications, Management and Technology program at New York University (NYU) now have access to a complete digital workflow system. Blanchard Systems and DALiM Software jointly donated the software components, including TWiST workflow and LiTHO page makeup and digital retouching software. SGI contributed two Silicon Graphics 330 visual workstations to power the system.

In a related move, Carol Werle, CEO of DALiM Software, has been appointed a member of the advisory board to the NYU program. (www.dalim.com)

GRANDVILLE, MI—X-Rite Inc. recently announced it has signed a five-year, $18 million customer contract, the largest in the company's history. The contract is said to call for X-Rite to develop an instrument and quality control system for a Fortune 500 customer who will use it as part of a worldwide color quality control program. According to the company, release of further details is restricted by confidentiality agreements. (www.x-rite.com)

BOSTON—Winthrop Printing has installed a Prediction digital halftone proofing system from Polaroid Graphics Imaging. The device is an automated version of the manufacturer's PolaProof system. Winthrop is a sheetfed and web operation that runs its CTP department 24 hours a day to ensure plate production keeps up with the presses.

"We can load the Prediction unit and make 80 high-quality halftone proofs in 10 hours without an operator," says Kurt Muller, the shop's manufacturing manager. "It beats our previous digital halftone proofing system by at least two proofs an hour." (www.polaroidgraphics.com)

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL—EPS, a member of the Segerdahl Group, has added a new digital photography studio to its mix of capabilities. Photographer Jim York has been brought on board to direct the facility. The move is said to be part of an aggressive premedia plan that will expand the firm's business beyond prepress production, Website design and multimedia development services. To better reflect this positioning, the company has changed its full name to Electronic PreMedia Services. (www.epserv.com)

VALMEYER, IL—MAR Graphics has completed installation of a Strobbe Laser Platesetter system to support its forms printing operation. The CTP system reportedly was added to improve the plant's plate quality and workflow, while complementing its existing capabilities. (www.margraphics.com)

ROLLING MEADOWS, IL—Screen (USA) and Tekgraf Inc. have entered into a multi-year agreement authorizing Tekgraf to act as the master distributor for Screen's prepress products. This agreement covers the manufacturer's flatbed and drum scanners, Katana and Tanto line of imagesetters, and Trueflow PDF-based workflow system. (www.tekgraf.com or www.screenusa.com)

ZURICH—The International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress (CIP4) has elected new members to its advisory board. Members of the board now include: Christian Anschütz, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen; Martin Bailey, Harlequin; Paltiel Barak, CreoScitex; Johan Berlaen, Agfa; Alfred Bürkli, Muller Martini; Henny van Esch, Optimus; Thomas Fischer-Radtke, Koenig & Bauer AG; Paul Gaboury, printCafe; Jordi Gonzalez, Hewlett-Packard; Stephan Jaeggi, PrePress Consulting; Wayne Minns, NexPress Solutions; Bob Schaffel, Adobe; Heiner Schilling, MAN Roland; Jürgen Schönhut, Fraunhofer IGD; Amit Sharma, QTI; Jerry Sturnick, Xerox; John Sweeney, Graphics Microsystems; and Jacques Thiebauld, DALiM Software.

One of the CIP4 board's first tasks will be to put the finishing touches on Version 1.0 of the Job Definition Specification (JDF). The XML-based print workflow specification is intended to establish JDF as a universal job ticket standard. (www.cip4.org)

PALO ALTO, CA—PIP Printing has moved into digital production by installing a DPM2340 digital platemaker and EasyTrap software from A.B.Dick-Multigraphics. The shop reportedly enjoyed a 24 percent rate of growth last year, with sales totaling $1.8 million. The platesetter will feed its six A.B.Dick presses. (www.abdick.com)

NEW YORK CITY—Lazernet Graphics, a prepress services provider located here, has installed a PolaProof 2230 digital halftone proofing system from Polaroid Graphics Imaging. Lazernet's customer list includes advertising agencies, publishers and Fortune 500 corporations. (www.polaroidgraphics.com)

BROCKTON, MA—The Inkstone Co. has stepped up from outputting two-up film to imposed eight-page forms by installing a Screen (USA) Tanto 5120 imagesetter and Trueflow PDF-based workflow system. (www.screenusa.com)
 

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