PREPRESS USED to be a tightly defined process. Its evolution into “workflow” made the boundaries less clear cut, and they have been further blurred by the introduction of digital printing, variable data, Web-to-print and JDF into the production mix. Developments on all fronts could be seen around the show floor at Graph Expo 2007, along with a new potential wrinkle—Microsoft’s XPS (XML Paper Specification).
Delivering on announcements made at last year’s show, a couple of vendors released upgrades to their workflow solutions that implement the Adobe PDF Print Engine (APPE) technology. It implements native PDF rendering, faster file processing and further JDF integration.
Agfa’s ApogeeX 4.0 adds Adobe’s new processing engine alongside the existing CPSI PostScript interpreter. Other components of the upgrade include plate versioning, Digital QuickStrip for rendering separate pages and an optional InkSaving module for automated GCR. The company also introduced Delano 3.0, which enhances the project management system by simplifying the user interface and enabling content to be uploaded without page assignments.
In addition to “APPE-enabled” capabilities, the new Trueflow SE workflow system from Screen (USA) features late-stage content corrections and drag-and-drop file processing in a device-independent environment that supports computer-to-plate (CTP) and digital printing systems. It is a replacement for the current Trueflow 3 product range.
Kodak demonstrated its implementation of the technology in the Prinergy 4 workflow, which was introduced this past spring.
There weren’t any broad trends in the rest of the developments announced in the workflow product category. The news consisted of incremental enhancements and a couple of business deals.
Heidelberg unveiled the Prinect Archive System, which features a new architecture and ability to work with sections of an archived job. Prinect’s Web-to-print capabilities have been upgraded with an improved user interface and detailed job status tracking, among other new features. Prinect Signa Station now enables layout dimensions to be varified on-screen and provides a three-dimensional view for checking collating marks.
Getting into the Flow
Fujifilm Graphic Systems is now offering a trio of workflow solutions in the United States, including Rampage Systems’ Rampage v10.5, Screen’s Trueflow and LithoTechnics’ Metrix.
The latest release of Rampage enhances the native processing of files by its PDF Trap Engine, adding the ability to handle RGB-to-CMYK conversions, varnish or bump plates, die lines and object-based screening.
Metrix automates job planning by integrating with an MIS on the input side and outputting JDF or PPF data to drive downstream processes. Verion 3.0 adds Mac OS X support, optimizes production across multiple press sheets and presses, and provides a drag-and-drop interface. Xitron has also signed on as a distributor.
Designed for small- to mid-size commercial printers, ECRM’s WorkMates is a PDF-based workflow that includes PDFMate, for automatic PDF file creation via hot folders; ImposeMate, automated imposition for small-format offset and digital presses; and ProofMate Generic, for proofing on any networked Windows printer. It is based on a Harlequin RIP core.
XPS is the “electronic paper” file format introduced in Windows Vista and Office 2007 that is designed to facilitate sharing of files with more consistent, predictable results, similar to Adobe PDF. Global Graphics has been working with Microsoft and, at Graph Expo, put together a good size “XPS Land” booth to showcase companies that have developed some level of XPS support. Among the nine other companies manning demonstration kiosks were Konica Minolta, Xerox, Screen (USA), Quark and Xitron.
Global Graphics showed its new Harlequin+ Server RIP that natively processes XPS, along with PDF and PostScript. The company believes that businesses will be motivated to implement XPS because of the issues with file sharing in Office formats (such as .doc and .ppt). It sees the format migrating up to commercial printing applications within a year or so.
The deal that created EskoArtwork happened so close to the start of the show, the combined organization retained the two booths committed to by the separate companies. According to the executives on hand, the various workflow products involved are considered to be complementary so there are no near-term plans for any software lines to be phased out. Several “major” upgrades were released in Chicago, including Nexus 8.6, Odystar 3.0, Neo 1.2 and Esko Software Suite 7.
Variable data software originally was just part of the bundle with a digital press, but has evolved into its own workflow product category. Now, these applications increasingly are being integrated or expanded into storefront and Web-to-print solutions.
Printable Technologies has standardized on the FusionPro product name for both its Web-to-print and variable data product lines. Its FusionPro Web storefront has been enhanced with a reporting module for fulfillment, order tracking features, an imposition engine adapted from the company’s desktop product and three new shipping functions. On the variable data side, the functionality of FusionPro Server can now be extended with the Live module for online template editing and Load Balancing for parallel processing of large jobs.
Taking Things Personally
XMPie launched version 4.0 of its PersonalEffect variable data software that adds the ability to track and analyze campaign results in real-time. Version 2.5 of the uStore Web-to-print solution features streamlined order fulfillment and a new plug-in architecture for the shipping function that provides connectivity to shippers.
Under a deal announced at Graph Expo, AlphaGraphics is leveraging its long-standing relationship with EFI to deploy XMPie’s uDirect Professional Premier Edition variable data software (sold by EFI) to its 250 franchises worldwide. As for its own offerings, EFI previewed an upgrade of the PrinterSite Fulfillment storefront that features a new user interface, tighter integration with XMPie’s products and real-time shipping and tax calculations.
Just prior to the show, Pageflex, a division of Bitstream Inc., released the Storefront 5.5 upgrade that adds tools to customize the look and functionality of customer-facing Websites. In Chicago, the company demonstrated the ability of the product to integrate with third-party solutions, including the OASymbio print automation platform from Objective Advantage. Associates Graphic Services, in Wilmington, DE, is the first printer to deploy the combination to create a nearly “lights out” automated production environment.
OrderSense—a new company and ASP/SAS Web-to-print solution—was launched by Bay Digital, a graphic arts system integrator and dealer, in partnership with Press-sense. Targeted to small- and mid-size printers, the service offers Press-sense iWay software as a hosted solution that printers can implement for a monthly fee based on the number of orders.
Due to be released in the fourth quarter, iWay 4.0 includes asset management capabilities, tax and shipping improvements, a new budget/cost center module and the ability to fully customize sites.
A Web-to-print solution of a different sort is available from HubCast Inc. It is offering an Open Commercial Print Utility that connects print providers (who pay to sign on) to a global network of digital and offset printers, enabling “distribute and print” workflows. The service includes technology and business services components. It requires participating shops to implement color management, press optimization and industry standards to ensure uniformity in printed results. HubCast facilitates the business end by requiring payment up front into an escrow account and by handling any disputes.
In contrast to past shows, CTP technology wasn’t a headliner this year. The former thermal vs. violet war of true believers has settled into acceptance of each imaging technology as a viable option. It was status quo on the chemistry-free/processesless plate front.
Agfa added the Avalon LF XT+ model to its platesetter lineup, providing a violet imaging solution for high-volume environments. It delivers 41 (B1-size) plates per hour and is offered in manual and automatic loading versions.
Making a Triple CTP Play
Covering all the bases, Fujifilm introduced thermal and violet platesetters and a new digital plate. Saber V-8 and V-8 HS are eight-up violet platesetters that use acousto-optic deflector technology to image 19 (2,400 dpi) and 70 (1,200 dpi) plates per hour, respectively. The Javelin 8800E/S/Z family of thermal platesetters uses the latest Grating Light Valve (GLV) technology to image 24 (E), 32 (S) and 42 (Z) pph. Brillia LH-PL is a thermal plate designed for longer runs, up to 500,000 impressions, which was released in controlled sales.
Heidelberg committed to offering a VLF platesetter that matches the larger plate size of its forthcoming wide-format sheetfed presses. It will leverage the design of the Suprasetter thermal product line.
Along with its 40th anniversary, Screen (USA) toasted the purchase of the 11,000th CTP device manufactured by its parent company. That machine went to a Brazilian printer, so the vendor added local flavor by presenting a plaque to Quad/Graphics for installing the landmark 11,111th Screen platesetter, a PlateRite Ultima 36000Z large-format (82.6x62.9?) model. A higher speed version, 36000ZX, that uses the latest GLV technology to image 33 pph (at 2,400 dpi) was introduced at the show.
A couple of other story lines carried across multiple exhibitors on the show floor.
Pantone Inc. unveiled its new PANTONE Goe color system just prior to Graph Expo, which enabled companies such as Xerox, HP, Quark and Global Graphics to announce support for the system during the event. Goe includes 2,058 new colors arranged in chromatic order and is based on a set of 10 color ink mixing bases, plus clear. All of the colors have been designed for printing uniform ink film thicknesses to allow for equal drying times and more control when matching color on-press.
With the exceptions of MIS/ERP software, implementation of JDF (Job Definition Format) tended to be mentioned in passing, if at all. This is in marked contrast to all the attention given this tool for process integration and automation in recent years.
Integration, whether via JDF or not, was a common message from the MIS vendors. Systems are now interfacing with Web-to-print solutions, as well as extending their connectivity to all facets of production. Interactive, computerized scheduling is another area of activity.
EFI’s PrintFlow dynamic scheduling solution for the Prograph MIS adds functionality for capacity maximizing job sequence planning, advanced to-do list generation, multi-run functionality, routing and tandem run capabilities and advanced split, drag-and-drop interface. The company also introduced more than 100 enhancements to PrinterSite Internal, primarily to upgrade its performance and compatibility with new versions of its Hagen Logic and PIS print MIS for real-time information sharing via a standard Web browser.
Heidelberg showed a prototype version of its new Prinect Scheduler, set for introduction at Drupa 2008. It is an intuitive, interactive scheduling tool with an interface that the company says will feel familiar to Microsoft Office users. The system is designed to support production planning options from semi-automatic planning of complete jobs to detailed planning of individual production stages.
At Graph Expo, Prism USA highlighted the experiences of two Prism WIN management system users—Walsworth Publishing and Colorcraft. The company also demonstrated its support of the JDF standard by showing the ability of the MIS and QTMS iQ shop floor data collection system to connect with equipment from Kodak, LithoTechnic, MAN Roland and MBO.
Pace Systems Group showcased the ability of its ePace print management system to integrate with Web-to-print solutions from Printable Technologies, Press-sense iWay and Pageflex Storefront from Bitstream Inc. These combined solutions are said to provide a complete, streamlined workflow from ordering to fulfillment.
The company also demonstrated JDF-based connectivity using its ePace PaceConnect framework to link the MIS to Kodak’s Prinergy workflow utilizing Prinergy Business Link.
Specifically designed for the digital print and variable data market segments, Digital Estimator from Estimator Corp. features a single-screen interface and Press-Select function that determines which press in a shop is the best fit for a given job. It’s functions include quote, job ticket, purchase orders, shipping labels, invoicing and job tracking reports. PI