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Investigating Integrated Imposition

August 1998

When it comes to the task of imposition, prepress managers are looking for integrated solutions—tools that can allow the adoption of an all-digital CTP environment.

Why? The technological enhancement of digital imposition software, large-format computer-to-film devices and new launches in the CTP market have put greater emphasis on the role electronic imposition plays in moving to an all-digital domain.

Factors encouraging new launches of imposition software encompass movements from in-RIP trapping, to the utilization of Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) and Adobe PostScript 3, to full-scale automation the likes of CIP3.

In more detail, catalysts for imposition software tools include the following trends.

  • The move to a client server solution, requiring a more integrated prepress workflow, with imposition tools incorporating in-RIP trapping.

  • A rise in the need for more downstream automation, allowing imposition tools to assist in tasks such as color management—as in registering ink key settings in CIP3 workflows—as well as aiding in the automation of folding, cutting and binding tasks at the postpress stage.

    "Imposition is starting to look at more downstream controls; imposition is looking to simplify life at the press, not just at the prepress, stage," asserts Imation's Michael Reiher, marketing manager. "Imposition software is looking to pass information along the entire digital workflow, allowing for more automated steps at the press and postpress."

  • The need for customized imposition solutions allows for greater output flexibility and control of imposition on digital presses, on-demand printers, imagesetters and digital proofers.

  • The rise of PDF, which brings a nice, consistent file format for imposition, encourages further integration of trapping functions and OPI. Also, the integration of Adobe's PostScript 3 RIP technology ensures a consistent level of quality and stability.

Imation PressWise 3.0 software lets customers add PDF-based pages to any PressWise imposition process. Developed for the Mac operating system, Imation PressWise 3.0 software may decrease printing errors by taking advantage of the inherent benefits of PDF. These advancements include page independence, small file size and the ability to produce consistent and predictable output results.

"As PDF becomes the standard mechanism to deliver documents for print production, commercial printers will need to integrate PDF support into their production workflows," Imation's Reiher reports. "We've designed the PressWise 3.0 application to be advanced in its support for new technologies like PDF and the forthcoming PostScript 3 language, while maintaining the simplicity of PressWise software so that customers still using conventional prepress techniques can migrate to digital methods easily."

ScenicSoft, too, is bolstering its imposition software with PDF power. Preps 3.5 now provides full support for imposition of a PDF document, allowing users to take advantage of the benefits provided by the new all-digital workflows that utilize PDF documents as their source format.

Preps also supports the mixing and matching of both PostScript and PDF documents to facilitate workflow in more complex environments where multiple formats are common. Also, QuarkXPress 4.0-, 4.01- and 4.02-generated documents are beginning to appear in shops and will eventually become more common. ScenicSoft has responded and includes support for imposition files from these new versions of the popular application with its Preps 3.5.

Server Suite is the latest imposition tool from Ultimate Technographics. The suite of Mac and Windows NT products, including UltimateFlow OPI, Trapeze and Impostrip, provides the ability to integrate a mixed hardware/software environment without compatibility issues.

Ultimate also just released IMPress 2.5 for the four-up imagesetter and platesetter market. IMPress has the full functionality of Impostrip, but was created independently with a simplified and user-friendly interface. IMPress supports an automated Hot Folder workflow, with more than 150 application filters, including a PDF workflow.

"The future of a profitable, all-digital CTP workflow is a simple one, two, three approach—combine isolated prepress tasks, simplify the operator interface and automate the process," states Mark Scott, director of marketing at Ultimate Technographics.

Speaking of full automation, on the bundled workflow side of imposition, prepress providers including Agfa Div., Bayer Corp., BARCO Graphics, Heidelberg Prepress, Krause America, Scitex, Screen and others continue to provide imposition tools within comprehensive workflow packages.

New from PrePRESS Solutions is Panther PageImposer software, which assembles individual pages into digital flats after they have been RIPed, solving several problems associated with PostScript-based imposition. Panther Page-

Imposer stores imposition instructions as job files that are completely separate from the content of pages in a publication—watching as each page is individually RIPed—and when all the component pages for a plate are ready, it automatically assembles them for plate production.

Keep an eye on PageImposer and other new imposition tools, as the market evolves and imposition further integrates into digital CTP.

Tech Talk: IRIS on Imposition

A fully digital workflow—from page creation to platemaking—demands a digital imposition proof that doesn't incur the cost or time penalties of exposing analog films to produce traditional bluelines.

Wide-format ink-jet printers are particularly suited to this application. Their image quality is sufficient to verify text and line weight, traps and color breaks. When compared to analog methods, ink-jet offers the added benefits of low-cost consumables, faster throughput and no chemical waste.

An important caveat should be noted: Although the signatures produced on ink-jets are often printed in four colors, they are generally not intended to serve as a final color contract proof. They can, however, be useful in the pressroom as a guide to ink coverage and distribution.

Initially, wide-format ink-jet printers produced only single-sided imposition proofs. Inaccuracies in the feed mechanisms of "off-the-shelf" wide-format printers made them unable to assure proper registration and alignment from the front to the back of the proof.

In order to create a fully imposed flat, users resorted to pasting two sheets back to back. Recently, however, several vendors have refined these mechanisms, making double-sided digital imposition proofing a reality.

Case in point is the IRIS42WIDE imposition proofer, due out this year—watch for it at Graph Expo.

IRIS claims the proofer will produce a double-sided, 16-page signature flat (four colors, 360 dpi) in about 10 minutes. With a front to back alignment accuracy of 0.03˝, the IRIS42WIDE promises to deliver a solid combination of accuracy and image quality.

Will the IRIS42WIDE realize its promise for doubled-sided, 16-page digital signature proofing?

Stay tuned...

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