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RIPs--Directing the Imagesetter

February 1999
Adobe's PostScript Level 3 and PDF, plus new technologies from Harlequin, Rampage and others, are forging new frontiers in output functionality. The goal? Maximize total throughput. For the imagesetter, throughput starts at the RIP.


BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO


Raster image processor (RIP). Ironic that the term used to describe the most complex, multi-tasked, time-sensitive phase of preprinting shares its acronym with a much more tranquil phrase: Rest In Peace.

Rest is one task the RIP only performs under the most nightmarish of production circumstances, barring any natural disasters the prepress director can pin RIP degradation on—and get away with it. Without doubt, if a RIP fails, stopping productivity and choking a prepress department, the only peace a prepress director can expect may be attached to a pink slip.

The RIP controls every major component in a print job's early life, from interpreting a growing array of file formats to deciphering color to maximizing throughput performance at the output device.

When selecting a RIP, a prepress manager—knowing the RIP is the cornerstone of any given prepress department, impacting every aspect of every print job for which that department is responsible—must determine exactly where the RIP will fit into an established prepress workflow. This means determining how the RIP will facilitate color separation and OPI swaps, as well as handle imposition and trapping—especially trapping and imposition, arguably the most time-sensitive productivity functions in prepress.

"Inexorably, craft skills like trapping and imposition are evolving into manufacturing processes. Automating these processes within an increasingly modular RIP architecture yields increased overall productivity," states Bob Trenhamp, president and CEO at PrePRESS Solutions. "By providing a data channel that starts with the content creators and extends into the pressroom, today's RIPs are becoming the glue in the modern prepress workflow. Tomorrow's RIPs promise links all the way from asset management systems to advanced imaging technologies, thanks to a relentless adherence to standards, database integration, remote interfaces and data compression."

What does this mean for today's imagesetter—whether the imagesetter of choice is the latest, greatest output model or an old faithful?

Robert Cook, product manager at IPTech, offers a perspective. "We see three key areas of interest that are providing momentum for future RIP development and sophistication: legacy upgrades, direct-to-plate and workflow integration.

"Many shops have big investments in older imagesetters and RIPs," Cook continues. "While these legacy imagesetters are still capable of producing excellent output, their legacy RIPs cannot handle the forever-expanding list of demands and expectations of today's production environment.
 

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