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WORKFLOW SOFTWARE -- Betting on a System

November 2004
BY MARK SMITH

Technology Editor

Not to get philosophical, but if a word comes to mean everything, there's a danger of it ending up to mean nothing. The digital revolution was already on its way to making "workflow" a catch-all term in prepress, when the rise of CIM (computer-integrated manufacturing) extended its use to the entire print production process.

As a result, an ever wider array of products now can be called digital workflow solutions. For the purposes of this article, the definition is being limited to the evolution of what used to be called prepress systems.

Vendors have responded to this trend with a shift toward marketing workflow solution brands as much as specific products. Creo arguably gets credit for pioneering this approach with its Network Graphic Production concept, but Agfa Graphic Enterprise, Heidelberg Prinect and Screen Trueflownet came into being about the same time.

Modularity and flexibility are at the heart of this concept, with users able to incorporate specific components based on the demands of their work and operations. Open data formats, such as JDF and PDF, are key enabling technologies. Another central aspect involves extending the workflow out to print customers with online capabilities such as remote proofing, preflight and job submission.

Driving Offset and Digital

The closest thing to a new trend in workflow developments is the ability for one system to drive both offset (CTP, primarily) and digital printing. Also, vendors continue to expand the capabilities of their solutions to address packaging applications. While this trend may create the potential for commercial printing applications to receive less attention, it does help justify continued development of the technology.

Agfa already is previewing ApogeeX 3.0, which builds on the recently released 2.0 version and is slated to be available in the first quarter of 2005. Expansion of the system's JDF/JMF (Job Messaging Format) functionality is a key focus of ongoing development work.

Version 2.0, released earlier this year, was said to extend its application to high-end operations by enhancing system scalability, providing load balancing of processor intensive tasks and adding fault tolerance. It also extended the connectivity of the system with drivers for new Agfa and non-Agfa imaging devices and ability to export PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-3 files.

New features of ApogeeX 3.0 include increased raster data handling capabilities and support of JDF layout information from independent imposition solutions. It also will include a number of improvements for proofing, such as enhanced reproduction of spot colors and additional remote proofing functionality.
 

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