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GRAPH EXPO WRAP-UP -- Digital Integration Takes the Stage

November 2002

Enfocus Software, meanwhile, is broadening the reach of its tools through the introduction of a free Certified PDF Reader as a plug-in for Adobe Acrobat and licensing of the Enfocus PitStop Library to OEMs for integration into workflow solutions.

Speaking of digital workflow solutions, Heidelberg unveiled its Prinect Printready modular workflow architecture and the first system components in the system. It is expected to be the successor to Prinergy when the manufacturer's business agreement with Creo expires. Creo answered by launching Version 2.1 of Prinergy, while Agfa had the first U.S. showing of ApogeeX. All of the systems feature JDF support.

Screen (USA) added features to its Trueflow workflow, and Esko-Graphics released upgrades to its Fastlane and FlowDrive front ends. Fujifilm showed its CV5 RIP that can be enhanced with workflow capabilities.

In addition, Shira Computers and Group Infotech introduced products they classify as preprint management (or manufacturing) systems—Xpressi and Printline Automation (PLA), respectively.

The violet versus thermal computer-to-plate (CTP) debate was surprisingly muted at this year's Graph Expo. The "new" things in CTP product displays tended to be the first U.S. showing or commercial delivery of products previously announced, with the IPEX show in the U.K. earlier this year having stolen the thunder.

As expected, Fujifilm and Esko-Graphics brought 30mW violet platesetters to the Windy City, and Heidelberg says a 30mW version of its Prosetter will be available by the end of the year. Fujifilm also formally showed its high-speed Brillia LP-NV photopolymer plate, and Western Lithotech, a Lastra Group Co., likewise displayed its violet-sensitive DiamondPlate LV-1 photopolymer plate.

Two thermal platesetter introductions—Agfa Xcalibur 45 and Screen (USA) PlateRite Ultima VLF—were noteworthy for their use of the new Grating Light Valve (GLV) technology. basysPrint also uses a specialized imaging component, the Digital Micromirror Device (DMC), in its computer-to-conventional-plate systems, which now offer nearly double the imaging speed thanks to second-generation technology.

Creo teamed up with Presstek to demonstrate the former's Trendsetter and Lotem platesetters imaging the latter's chemistry-free Anthem thermal plates. Another pairing led to Printing Developments (PDI) filling out its product line with the new Matrix Thermal polymer plate, which it is marketing under an agreement with Spectratech International.

Proofing Solutions

Ink-jet proofing solutions continue to proliferate, whether they be software solutions designed to optimize the results of a variety of print engines or dedicated hardware and software combinations.

It may not be completely accurate to call the first category software-only products since some of the proofing solutions include dedicated consumables (typically inks, but also papers in some cases), and most require, or at least recommend, use of some kind of measuring device to calibrate and linearize output.

Products on display included Creo Integris, DuPont ChromaPro XP, Kodak Polychrome Graphics (KPG) Professional Server Version 3.0, GMG ColorProof, Best Colorproof and Oris Color Tuner Version 5.0 from CGS Publishing Technologies. SWOP support was a key advance shown at the show in several cases.

Fujifilm took things a step further by introducing its Match Certified color management software and proof branding program. The system is said to mimic the human eye in creating a visual match between Fujifilm digital proofers and presses.

In terms of hardware products, Creo introduced the Veris continuous-flow ink-jet proofer and KPG's integration of Imation's product line was reflected in its launch of the Matchprint 5542 and 5560 ink-jet proofers. Agfa added the seven-color Sherpa 24m ink-jet proofer to its product family, which also includes specially formatted media.

KPG also announced plans to commercialize its Matchprint Virtual Proofing system that consists of a viewing station, monitors, measurement device, as well as a specially configured computer and software.

Also showing remote proofing solutions were RealTimeImage, with its ASP-based RealTimeProof Express solution, and Prolatus, with its MarkUp proofing software that features a new tablet and pen to mark up proofs.

In the digital printing arena, the big initiatives centered around increasing the number of impressions produced on existing solutions, rather than major new technology introductions. See the related story in "Digital Digest" (page 60) for more information on programs designed to build demand for digital output.

Digital Press Report

Xerox was taking commercial orders for its iGen3 digital production press (also see this issue's cover story, which profiles one of the first iGen3 commercial users.) Likewise, Heidelberg reported sales of its NexPress 2100 digital press. Scitex Digital Printing previewed what it claims is the "next generation" in color printing technology, but devices using the page-wide array, continuous ink-jet printheads reportedly won't hit the marketplace until late in 2003.

In the black-and-white segment, 150 page/minute systems were introduced by Heidelberg (Digimaster 9150i) and Canon (imageRunner Pro 150+). IBM offers the Infoprint 4100 digital printer with a 191⁄2˝ web width, allowing users to print 6x9˝ books three-up with trim and gutter. Also, Delphax Technologies used the event as a forum to continue its efforts to establish the company's identity beyond Check Technology Corp. and promote its digital printing solutions based on electron beam imaging (EBI).

However, the main technology trend apparent on the show floor was the continuing evolution of digital printing solutions for producing a finished product in-line. These end-to-end production lines combine printing engines with binding and finishing solutions from a variety of manufacturers. IBM, Xerox and Océ were among the leading print engine players with solutions on display.

In an attempt to help industry companies explore emerging markets, the Graphic Arts Show Co. sought to create a special presence for large-format digital printing technology at Graph Expo. In promoting the initiative, the organizers drew from a study done by IT Strategies for NPES The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies.

The NPES study projects that U.S. retail sales of large-format print output could reach $11.3 billion by 2005. However, it notes only "around 15 percent of these retail dollars pass through more or less conventional graphic arts channels, the rest passing through non-traditional channels. Therefore, commercial printers arguably miss out on 85 percent of the incremental revenue derived from ink-jet technology."

Judging by the level of interest at the show, work remains to be done in selling commercial printers on the business opportunities in large-format digital printing.


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