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In Demand, Variable Data Delivers

May 1998
Variable data printing is a remarkable tool—especially in direct marketing environments—for pulling individuals into a subject, a theme, a sales pitch. Imagine the value of producing documents rich in custom-organized, image-intensive designs, fully personalized for each recipient.

While the on-demand printing systems at today's digital printing houses and high-end commercial sites are actually delivering these personalized prizes, the real enablers of this growing marketing phenomena are the software packages.

As a starting point, let's take a look at EFI's Fiery FreeForm variable data solution. Now available with the Fiery ZX line of color servers, FreeForm enables customers to use their existing workstations (PCs, Macs or UNIX) and software to produce documents with variable data. Users specify master or variable elements from a standard print driver. True variable data workflow is achieved by RIPing the master page once and overlaying the variable data.

The varying data can be transparent or opaque, can overlay, and can be freely rotated or scaled. The data can include any combination of color or black-and-white text, graphics and images without limitation on placement or element size.

Master and variable documents can be set up from the client application by using the printer driver, from the Fiery Command Workstation, or remotely over the Internet using Fiery WebTools.

"Variable data printing has been available to large corporations such as utilities and financial institutions for the last few years," asserts Dan Avida, president and CEO at EFI. "Just as with PostScript and desktop publishing, capabilities once reserved only for large companies are becoming economically attractive to smaller businesses and individuals."

Today's variable data printing, Avida explains, operates on two principles. "The first principle is that of the fixed or master document, which may include the page layout, as well as those graphics, text or images that are common to all pages," he says. "The second principle is that of varying data or elements, which may include graphics, text or images that are unique to each page."

Fiery FreeForm's ability to distinguish between master and variable data and treat them appropriately is somewhat unique in the market, for now.

Once users create document layouts using the applications of their choice, they then specify those graphic elements that will be "master elements" and those that will be "variable elements." And, from that point, FreeForm only RIPs the master document once. Each time the document is called thereafter, the Fiery pulls the already-RIPed master document and overlays it with the text and other variable elements as they are being sent to the printer.
 

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