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Distribute-and-Print--Linking Presses to Profits

October 1998
As the commercial printing segment absorbs more digital presses, the promise of digital links—such as Agfa's PrintCast—adds profit potential to the on-demand investment.


BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO


One year ago, PrintCast was launched. It was to be a digital link, a worldwide facilitator of distribute-and-print capabilities. Agfa had a vision for PrintCast: a distribute-and-print network with a hub operation based in Agfa's Wilmington, MA, facility that would digitally—via ISDN—link all Chromapress installations.

The objective was clear.

The PrintCast hub, the nerve center of the distribute-and-print network, would consist of dedicated facilities, personnel and equipment—all connected by high-speed ISDN links to Chromapress customer locations interested in participating in this international printing network. Agfa's IntelliPac, an intelligent compression technology used by the Chromapress IntelliStream system, would produce compact files that could then be transmitted over the ISDN connections.

What did PrintCast signify?

  • Print-and-distribute changing to distribute-and-print, on a truly global basis?

  • The viability of direct-to-press technology being recognized on a scale of global proportions, using global communications?


Absolutely.

Certainly, for print-on-demand to take the next step, for the digital press model to graduate to new levels of marketability and print performance, digital file transfer would have to link one digital press to the next. PrintCast, and technologies like it, were going to be the future of print-on-demand.

Fast forward to October of 1998.

Currently 25 sites around the world are linked to PrintCast. Agfa reports that its goal is to have 50 sites registered by year-end. That goal, reports Philippe Duval, worldwide business manager for PrintCast, is highly conservative.

"We anticipate more than that, with potentially a presence in every country around the world," Duval projects.

Developed by Agfa to enable Chromapress owners to send and receive jobs between more than 400 sites around the world, PrintCast is somewhat unique in having a central location that acts not only as a quality control check for Chromapress sites, but facilitates payments for services to members, regardless of the currencies involved.

"There are a number of issues that might not be apparent immediately when developing a global

distribute-and-print strategy," adds Marc Orchant, market development manager for Agfa's U.S. Digital Printing Systems group. "Back office issues like currency conversion, consolidated billing and prompt payment to providers, along with technical issues like varying substrate availability and language and character sets, all need to be considered."

Resolving these issues and developing a real-time software solution that will work for Chromapress customers around the world posed a hefty challenge to Agfa in the conception of PrintCast. Agfa defines PrintCast sites as "Print Sellers" and "Print Providers."
 

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