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Focus On

RIP/Pre-flight Software

Software plays a critical role in production, helping manage the overall process. Rob Fletcher picks out the latest RIP and pre-flight solutions that can boost your workflow

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Prepare for lift off

When I first started at Print Monthly back in 2011, one of my first days out was to visit a software company to cover one of their latest product launches. I will always remember the visit as, fresh to the industry, I had very little knowledge of the kit I would be writing about and what it actually did.

Something else I will always remember from that day is something that one of the staff said during their demonstration: “You can spend all the money in the world on a printer, but without the right management and software, it will all go to waste”. As my knowledge of the industry has grown over the last six years or so, this quote has stuck and, judging by what many printing companies have told me, software solutions are one of the most important aspects of their entire production process.

RIP and pre-flight software is critical to production in many print houses in the UK and around the world, playing a major role in the overall print process and ensuring the difference between profit and loss. Here, we pick out some of the latest solutions on the market and find out what these products can offer to users.

Best possible output
One of the leading names in RIP and pre-fight technology, as well as printing kit in general, is EFI. Saskia Heller, manager corporate communications at the firm, says the benefits of both types of software are clear to see.

“A quality RIP or digital front end means print jobs, whatever the application, are printed as designed and intended,” Heller explains, adding: “So, everything from colour accuracy, through to the interpretation of transparencies and overprints will be precise, resulting in the best possible output.

A quality RIP or digital front end means print jobs, whatever the application, are printed as designed and intended

“Quality pre-flight software can check a wealth of file attributes, and report back accurately on any errors that need attention. Also, some higher-end pre-flight solutions can perform reliable fixing of errors too eliminating manual intervention, which is extremely efficient.”

Heller goes on to outline the dangers of not investing in respected forms of RIP and pre-flight software, saying print companies are putting the quality of their work at risk by not committing proper funds to such solutions.

“Rudimentary RIP technology can be lacking in many areas,” she says, adding: “Non-Adobe Postscript offerings can bring issues of data integrity meaning what was designed, may not quite be what will be printed.

“Digital front-ends without professional colour management will inevitably produce poor results due to lack of colour control, or inferior colour conversions. Less capable digital front ends can also be very slow at processing large files meaning you don’t benefit from the full investment of the printer as the RIP can’t keep up.

“Similarly, poor pre-flight software may not be able to check all the parameters that your jobs require, or may not be very configurable which can be cumbersome. Also, if problems are missed by pre-flight software, or it miss-reports errors, the solution is not doing the job it’s intended for.

“Worst case would be a solution introducing errors into a correct file due to poorly supporting the PDF specification when the pre-flight software saves-out the file after correction.”

O Factoid: RIP stands for raster image processor, which produces a bitmap that is used at a later stage of the printing process to produce the printed output. O

Heller says that in order to avoid such issues, print companies should invest in quality software, naming EFI’s Fiery digital front-ends as products that offer a reliable solution.

EFI offers Fiery digital front-ends tailored for many print industries covering cut-sheet toner-based applications through to industrial building decoration applications. Pre-flighting is also available within EFI’s Fiery Job Flow which is fully integratable with EFI’s Fiery digital front-ends for cut-sheet applications.

Industry members keen to learn more about EFI and its solutions can visit the company’s stand at The Print Show this year, which runs from October 11th to 13th at The International Centre, Telford. EFI will dedicate its booth at the event to its software products and will invite visitors to learn more about the benefits of its latest kit.

At The Print Show this year, EFI will focus on its range of software solutions and speak with visitors about how the products can benefit their business

Heller says: “Keeping up-to-date with the latest versions of both RIP and pre-flight technologies is very important as compatibility with the latest software suite from Adobe for example, means the solutions are in tune with each other allowing jobs to run smoothly from end-to-end.”

Increase productivity
Another leading technology developer active in this sector is Roland DG, which, much like EFI, is able to support print companies with hardware and software solutions. Rob Goleniowski, head of sales in the UK and Ireland at Roland DG, says investing in quality RIP and pre-flight software will save both time and money in the long-term.

Rob Goleniowski, head of sales in the UK and Ireland at Roland DG, says investing in quality RIP and pre-flight software will save both time and money in the long-term

Goleniowski comments: “There are multiple benefits of using high-quality RIP software. Most importantly, valuable time can be saved and a quick and easy workflow can be achieved, which will ultimately increase productivity and cut costs.
“Quality RIP software will ensure that you get the most out of your printer. Automated features, including adding crop marks, grommets and spot colour generation are valuable tools that ensure accuracy and saves design time. Other useful features enable accurate colour reproduction and colour matching across multi-platforms from large-format to litho presses.”

The Roland DG selection of software products includes Roland Versa Works Dual, compatible with Roland print, print and cut, and UV printers. Versa Works Dual handles PDF, EPS and PSD files natively, without any transparency or other effects such as drop shadows rendering issues. Goleniowski explains that these complex designs previously required users to edit the file in the design software.

At The Print Show this year, EFI will focus on its range of software solutions and speak with visitors about how the products can benefit their business

He adds: “Versaworks Dual is compatible with industry standard ICC profiles, including those created through standard profiling packaging and support for linearisation. As well as featuring a built-in Pantone library with detail spot colour matching and choices, Versa Works Dual comprehensive colour libraries features the enable automated colour-matching logos and other corporate identity elements.”

Roland DG also offers Roland Print Studio by Caldera. This is a powerful RIP and print management software designed for Mac OS users. Its features include an Adobe PDF print engine and advance ICC profiling tools, which Goleniowski says ensures that users produce high-end, colour accurate output.

In addition, Goleniowski says the advance options for automation and template driven tilling will reduce design and processing time and help streamline complex workflows, while optimising contour nesting and minimising media waste.

Do not skimp
Also active in this sector is Onyx Graphics, which offers a variety of solutions for print shops of all sizes, across the spectrum of printing applications. Bryan Manwaring, director of product marketing at the company, says printers must have some level of print software in order to operate, meet customer needs and profit as a business.

Bryan Manwaring, director of product marketing at Onyx Graphics, says ONYX 12.2 allows users to “reduce manual error and print more jobs per day, with the fastest RIP and data transfer speeds in the industry, directly improving the bottom line”

Manwaring says: “Having the right RIP and print workflow solution integrated into a production environment is the real question, which comes down to the needs of the business. Is the print shop small or large? Do they print banners, signs or textile products? Additional to that, does the business want to grow? Do they want to build a reputation for quality work?

“Those are some of the questions a business owner or production manager might ask when looking for the correct software solution for their printing needs. We find that the main shop benefits include the kind of solution that can grow with their business, is easy to use, is reliable and has superior colour, all the while minimising manual error and maximising profits.”

Much like Heller at EFI, and the software professional that passed on similar advice to me back in 2011, Manwaring issues a warning to printers that choose to cut back on software investment in favour of print companies, saying they will realise their mistake in the long-run.

Manwaring comments: “There is nothing more damaging to a print shop than bad prints and unhappy customers from poorly completed jobs. Choosing to invest in a printer but then skimping on the print software solution at a fraction of the printer cost is a fast way to failure.

“The danger of missing corporate colours, failing to meet deadlines and customers losing confidence in your capability as a print service provider often comes down to which software you choose to run your print production.”

With this in mind, Manwaring goes on to highlight some of the products available from Onyx Graphics, including ONYX Software, which he describes as “simple, innovative and proven, with colour at its core”. Also on offer from Onyx Graphics is ONYX Color, which the company says is the only print colour engine specifically built for wide-format and grand-format work.

Manwaring also draws attention to ONYX 12.2, the latest version of its software that he says enables users to “reduce manual error and print more jobs per day, with the fastest RIP and data transfer speeds in the industry, directly improving the bottom line”.

In addition, Manwaring says ONYX Thrive brings “scalability through flexible network licensing”, allowing users to adjust print production for the daily needs of the business, with the added upside of this reducing costly downtime if a printer needs repairing.

While perhaps not the most headline-grabbing technology in the print industry, it is clear that software has a major role to play in the process. To put it simply, without some sort of RIP or pre-flight system in place, you are putting the whole production setup, as well as the end quality of products, at risk. It is time to look at your setup and consider investment in new, quality software?

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