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Business Opportunities

RIP and Pre-Flight Software

Upgrading your software is an effective way to boost business. Rob Fletcher looks at the latest RIP solutions on the market and finds out how this pre-flight software can help strengthen production

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Michelle Johnson, marketing manager of SAi, warns that without a RIP in place, PSPs may be in danger of missing deadlines

Prepare for blast off

There is no overestimating the role that software has to play in the modern print production process. Whether it is management information systems to help you take greater control or print management solutions to ensure you are achieving the colours your customers require, software has changed the way printers operate.

Another type of software that is used by print service providers (PSPs) around the world is RIP. These products help the print process run more smoothly and eliminate issues that can lead to errors further down the line, thus giving PSPs significant savings in terms of time, cost and waste.

Here, we speak with some of the leading providers of RIP in the industry to find out just their latest products have been developed to address specific problems in the print production.

Moving forward

One of the leading brands, not just in this sector, but print overall is EFI. As many print professionals will know, EFI is the company behind Fiery Digital Front End (DFE) technology, which is used by print companies around the world.

EFI champions its Fiery Digital Front End solution, explaining that it can help boost both quality and productivity, as well as make it easier to produce new and complex applications

Gayle Schaeffer, senior director, product management and marketing at the EFI Fiery Business Unit, comments: “Buyers sometimes underestimate the role that the DFE can play in improving overall quality and productivity — while also making it easier to produce new and more complex applications. A DFE is much more than a RIP.

“What was ‘good enough’ in the past likely won’t keep PSPs competitive in the future. The relentless industry trends of shorter runs and faster turnaround time put increasing pressure on profits. Customers are demanding more services, such as marketers who want more personalised campaigns to increase response rates.

What was ‘good enough’ in the past likely won’t keep PSPs competitive in the future

“The right DFE gives print companies the true potential to automate from order entry to finished output to reduce touches, time, and the chance of errors in the process. The right DFE will have the performance to process files that are becoming more complex and variable over time to reduce costly engine idle time. Customer satisfaction increases with higher and more consistent output colour quality and ability to offer more services such as variable data.”

With this in mind, Schaeffer draws attention to EFI’s Fiery DFEs, specifically the new Command WorkStation 6.2 that launched in June. This extends the popular interface for the management, layout, and editing of production digital print jobs to wide and superwide format inkjet printers driven by Fiery proServer or Fiery XF.

“The right DFE allows print companies to take achievable steps toward end-to-end workflow automation through job automation, prepress automation, and an integrated connection to online ordering, existing custom systems, MIS, and third-party workflow software such as Kodak Prinergy, Agfa Apogee, and Heidelberg Prinect,” Schaeffer says.

“However, equipment and software alone don’t automatically produce these benefits. Print companies should look for DFEs that have extensive training material that helps employees get the most out of the DFE and engine. Certification programmes, such as EFI Fiery Professional or Expert certification, can improve staff skills and increase job satisfaction along with providing employees a career development path.”

Don’t miss out

Elsewhere, Onyx Graphics is also well placed to offer advice and solutions in this market. Bryan Manwaring, director of product marketing, says PSPs that just go from file to print using a printer driver miss out on having control of their print production environment.

Manwaring expands: “RIP technology translates design files into readable files for print production and is a ‘must have’ technology for any PSP who wishes to benefit from being able to accept different types of design files, have control over the accuracy of colour output to match those design files, optimise print capacity and production efficiency, save costs on ink and media usage as well as reduce the number of reworks for their customers.

RIP technology translates design files into readable files for print production and is a ‘must have’ technology for any PSP

“Choosing a nesting layout, selecting QuickSets to reduce production time and manual error from multiple touch points, and building ICC profiles for the right ink and media combinations to get the kinds of prints required by their customers are all areas a print company can lose out on when opting out of using RIP technology.”

Onyx has recently launched ONYX 18, which covers the company’s entire product portfolio including RIP products and print workflow solutions. ONYX 18 includes new technologies such as a new ONYX Color Engine, ColorCheck, AccuBoost, PosterColor 2.0.

ONYX 18 from Onyx Graphics covers the company’s entire product portfolio including RIP products and print workflow solutions

In addition, Manwaring says ONYX 18 is the first iccMax compatible solution—the newest standard recommended by the icc for all wide-format print applications including soft signage and textile.

Manwaring also picks up on the ColorCheck feature and how this benefits the user: “ColorCheck is a process control tool set that gives PSPs the ability to prove colour output accuracy to meet customer brand colour needs, set process control measures to ensure consistency of output over time and match standards such as G7 and Fogra, all of which can be validated to their customers. AccuBoost allows for ICC profile iterations to fine-tune ICC profiles for even more accurate output and PosterColor 2.0 provides added pop and saturation for solid colours.”

Elsewhere, on the large-format side of production, SAi is able to offer those in this market its flagship SAi Flexi solution. Michelle Johnson, marketing manager, says this software offers customers the “most advanced productivity-enhancing software for their operations”.

Johnson expands: “SAi Flexi is widely-acknowledged as an easy to use print and cut workflow on the market. Importantly, linking to your previous question, this means greater throughput and fewer bottlenecks for large-format print businesses.

“Without feature-rich RIP software, print businesses could be missing out on the ability to improve efficiencies across their production throughput. That means potentially slowing down jobs or reducing the number that can be undertaken. At worst, it could mean missed deadlines.”

With this in mind, Johnson maps out how SAI is committed to development in this area and also speaks about the company’s focus on adding further value for the customer.

Johnson says: “We recognise the need to offer extra value-add, especially as customers will have diverse additional needs and priorities. At SAi, we continue to offer a number of different things to ensure that there’s something for everybody; whether it’s tracking your business’ performance through our Cloud-based solutions, monitoring production through your smartphone or Apple Watch or even accessing our software via subscription packages.

SAi’s Cloud mobile app provides managers access to job reports and production trends from virtually anywhere

“In the case of the latter, our pioneering subscription model is revolutionising the way that large-format print businesses purchase software, making premium solutions accessible to businesses of all sizes.

“Collectively, these extra value-added offerings ensure users not only access our industry-acclaimed software solutions, but in doing so, are able to harness new levels of flexibility and cost management.

Pivotal to print

In terms of focused solutions, Roland DG is able to support its customers with various RIP products. Joe Wigzell, Academy and Creative Centre manager at Roland DG UK, says that a good RIP package is a “pivotal” part of any print professional’s workflow.

Joe Wigzell, Academy and Creative Centre manager at Roland DG UK, says customers can access training resources and courses to learn more about RIP functionality

Wigzell expands: “Its integration between the PC and the printer determines so many things from the colour balances within the output to the ink economy and it also works as a management platform for your work, helping streamline processes and organise jobs. As such, any shortcomings in the RIP software will ultimately impact the final result of the entire print operation.”

Roland DG develops robust RIP solutions to ensure that users of its printing hardware can get the best possible output from their kit. Roland DG includes RIP packages with every machine, so its users do not need to incur additional costs from buying third-party software.

Wigzell says: “We endeavour to create RIP software that’s straightforward and easy for anyone to use, regardless of their previous experience. The balance between breadth of functionality and ease-of-use is a tricky one to get just right, but with VersaWorks Dual, we at Roland are confident that we’ve gotten as close to perfect as possible.

O Factoid: Set by the International Colour Conortium, iccMax is the newest standard for all wide-format print applications including soft signage and textile O

“To ensure our users get the most from their RIP software, the Roland Academy also produces online and offline training resources and courses that go into more depth around specific RIP functionality.”

With PSPs on the lookout for any sort of solution to help make production that little bit easier, RIPs may well be the way to go. Expected benefits here include having greater control over colour, optimising print capacity, saving on cost and, perhaps most important, reducing the number of reworks for their customers. The latter of these can help give clients more confidence in the work that you do and, in turn, secure repeat business.

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