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GRAPH EXPO 2006: Prepress & Software — Putting All of the Pieces Together

November 2006 BY MARK SMITH
Technology Editor

That’s the key advance offered by the Adobe PDF Print Engine—native PDF data processing without interim conversion to PostScript. Support of transparency, JDF integration and improvements in file processing speed are other benefits. Kodak Prinergy, Agfa ApogeeX, Heidelberg Prinect MetaDimension, a prototype workflow from Fujifilm, and RIPit OpenRIP Symphony are among the systems with new releases in the works that will incorporate this technology.

Agfa’s ApogeeX 3.5 also offers greater JDF/JMF enabled connectivity, Raster Preview function for soft proofing, interactive editing of PDF documents and an AutoStrip JDF-based stripping module.

Kodak previewed Prinergy version 4, which implements its Kodak ColorFlow color management technology and is a component of the Kodak Unified Workflow solution (for more on those technologies, see Digital Digest, page 88, in the October issue of PRINTING IMPRESSIONS). Other enhancements include a new “Dashboard” browser-based interface to the system, rules-based automation, greater MIS system connectivity and Digital Print Manager software for automating digital print production.

Thinking small (format) is in at Heidelberg with its Prinect MetaDimension 52i RIP system driving the new Suprasetter A52 thermal platesetter. This package comes with the new Prinect Imposition Editor, an Adobe Acrobat plug-in for imposing PDF pages, that can save imposition settings in JDF format. The company also announced that the Prinect Digital Print Manager, for integration with Xerox, HP Indigo and Kodak digital printing systems, will be available in early 2007.

RIPit Imaging Systems was also “previewing” the upcoming version of its workflow solution, OpenRIP Symphony, which can drive the SpeedSetter VM series of internal-drum, violet platesetters and third-party output devices. It did introduce ImageQ Concerto as a new product add-on to the current version of its workflow system. This new remote viewing and output control option provides functionality for remote access, job submission, job progress checking and online viewing.

Exhibiting under its new name, Fujifilm Graphic Systems USA (formerly Enovation Graphic Systems) demonstrated several workflow alternatives. The system it showed based on the Adobe PDF Print Engine was characterized as a technology demonstration to get customer feedback, with no announced plans to release it as a product. This prototype was said to be based on JDF and not just compliant with the specification.

Software Solutions

Also on display in the Fujifilm both were the Rampage JVX v10.3 workflow system and Trueflow 3 software from Screen (USA). The latest version of Rampage JVX features enhanced soft proofing, is fully JDF compliant and supports Fuji-film Co-Res and Taffeta screening.

Trueflow 3 version 4.0, part of the Trueflownet solution, was formally introduced in the Screen (USA) booth. Among the feature upgrades to this PDF- and JDF-based system are Come and Go imposition, double-sided proofing and the PageOptimize tool for ganging jobs. Also new is Spekta 2HR hybrid screening, part of the Color Suite add-on options, which is said to deliver image detail comparable to 650 lpi or higher.

Adding another twist to this string of relationships, Artwork Systems and Screen (USA) signed an OEM agreement under which the former’s ArtPro packaging software will be integrated into Trueflownet and branded as Packstudio SE. Artwork Systems also reported that its rollout of support for the Intel Mac platform that began with ArtPro and Nexus should be extended across its product line by the end of this year.

Elsewhere around the show floor, ECRM launched the new WorkMates PDF-based workflow. It is targeting the small- to mid-size commercial printer sector with this system that includes four standard modules—ImposeMate, TrapMate, ProofMate and PrintMate. Optional plug-ins provide expanded functionality, including CIPMate (CIP3/PPF support), ScreenMate (FM screening) and StepMate (step-and-repeat).

Dalim Software announced it already has ported its current applications to run natively on the Intel Core2 chip. On the new product front, it has teamed up with HELL Gravure Systems to release HelioFlow, an intuitive, automatic gravure imposition tool.

PitStop Automate, from Enfocus, an Artwork Systems brand, is described as a task-based production automation tool rather than a workflow solution—at least for now. It integrates with Adobe Acrobat (the company’s entire product range now supports Acrobat 8) and incorporates Certified PDF technology to enable automated file preflighting and processing. Third-party solutions can be integrated as plug-ins or via a hot folder interface for added functionality.

Getting Connected

Several such connections were announced at Graph Expo, including to Alwan CMYK Optimizer for separations, ICS Remote Director virtual proofing, PerfectProof ProofMaster digital proofing software and Ultimate’s Impostrip On-Demand Digital imposition software.

There can be advantages in buying a workflow system and platesetter as a match set from a single vendor, but that’s not the only option. Output solutions introduced at Graph Expo ranged from very large to small.

Making its North American debut, Agfa’s Avalon LF Violet platesetter is an external-drum device that uses a variation on the HD imaging head found in its thermal engines, which means it’s possible to swap out one for the other. The device handles plates sizes up to 45.7x32.2˝ and is offered in manual, semi-automatic or full automation configurations.

Kodak’s series III Trendsetter platesetters feature improved productivity, reliability and ease of use, along with remote support capabilities and faster file processing. Also getting a bump up in speed are the Magnus 400 (to 32 plates per hour) and Magnus VLF (39 plates per hour) platesetters, with an in-line punch now offered as an option for the latter.

Along with the small-format Suprasetter A52, Heidelberg is adding the A74 thermal platesetter for the medium-format (26.38x29.53˝) segment. These entry-level models feature the Intelligent Diode System capable of exposing the whole range of thermal plates (including processless) and can be equipped with the Auto Top Loader for automatic plate loading. The units are scheduled to be available in January.

Fujifilm is going after the same market with the new Dart 4300E (11 plates per hour) and Dart 4300S (21 plates per hour) four-up thermal platesetters. The devices support a maximum 3221⁄32x26˝ plate format and can be configured with an optional punch block. Also optional is fully automatic operation with a single or multi cassette autoloader.

Screen (USA) gave several new thermal platesetters their first major showing in the United States, having premiered them at IPEX 2006. Its PlateRite 6600 line supports a maximum plate size of 38.5x26.9˝ and is offered in two versions—entry level (E, 18 plates per hour) and higher speed (S, 30 plates per hour). Featuring GLV (Grating Light Valve) imaging technology, the PlateRite Ultima 24000 (68.8x55.1˝) and Ultima 36000 (82.6x62.9˝) top out its platesetter line.

Capitalizing on its acquisition of HighWater Designs, Printware launched a new PlateStream Violet metal CTP product line that it says is “chemistry-free ready.” The internal drum platform is offered in two- (21.65x24.61˝) and four-up (29.33x24.22˝) models, with the Advanced Robotic Plate Handling System available for the latter. These units can be driven by the company’s new Quickflow automated workflow with modules for PDF generation, preflighting, soft and hard copy proofing, and automated ink key setting.

Polyester CTP should not be overlooked. Mitsubishi Imaging introduced the DPX2 polyester platesetter as an upgrade to the DPX System. Enhancements to the internal-drum unit include automatic pre-loading of plates, feed sensors that register the plate edge and a new replenishment system. The company also released an upgrade to its Smart Tools 3.1.2 software that offers more control over the RIP, an enhanced GUI and improved compatibility with third-party RIPs.

To better bridge these workflow stages, on-screen proofing went 3D at Graph Expo. It’s not clear, though, whether potential users will see this capability as adding real value or as more of a gimmick.

Reading On-Screen

Dalim demonstrated the ability to view printed projects as a three-dimensional representation on a computer screen. The example shown was the ability to flip through a magazine with pages that turn as they would if the printed version were sitting on a table. Data can be pulled live from the premedia server—the product is to be a Mistral module—to provide the content of the pages.

Integrated Color Solutions is seeking to make the entire on-screen proof viewing experience more like physically reviewing hard copy. Its FlashProof plug-in for Remote Director 3.1 simulates the interaction between substrate, ink and lighting when a proof is viewed in a controlled light both. The proof can be manipulated in the viewing space to see how changes in lighting angle and reflection will impact the appearance of the printed piece. The technology is in beta testing, with a product launch slated for 2007.

JUST Normlicht is offering a solution to marry the two worlds with the new JUST Color Communicator2 light brightness calibration for its viewing cabinets. The system’s USB communication interface provides a connection to adJUST monitor calibration software so the brightness of the viewing cabinet can be matched to the image displayed on a computer monitor.PI

For more information on Graph Expo products, go to www.piworld.com and click on the Graph Expo roundup link.

Optimism, And Sales, Pervade Show Floor

Graph Expo and Converting Expo 2006 was an “unprecedented success,” according to the Graphic Arts Show Co. (GASC). Post-show assessments from exhibitors were near universally positive and full of glowing comments such as, “spectacular, absolutely incredible,” “phenomenal” and “the best show I can really remember.”

With more than 630 exhibitors covering in excess of 440,000 square feet of show floor space, GASC says this was the largest national graphic communications and converting trade show held in the U.S. since 2000. In addition, the event’s education program drew a record number of ticket sales.

GASC reports having logged more than 21,000 verified attendees. Beginning this year, the show company is reporting the actual number of attendees at the event rather than the total registrations, which includes exhibitor staffs and pre-registrants who don’t actually make it to the event.

Next year, Graph Expo will be held on September 9-12 at Chicago’s McCormick Place in tandem with the first edition of PackPrint, a new exhibition launched by GASC with the support of the Flexographic Technical Association (FTA). PackPrint is intended to build on Graph Expo and Converting Expo’s record for encompassing the entire package printing, converting and commercial printing marketplace.
 

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