Workflow must check all the boxes

Chris Jordan
Thursday, October 23, 2008

Most of the major suppliers including Agfa, Canon, Kodak, Heidelberg and Xerox are pushing a joint offset and digital production workflow. This strategy could work for large printers and service providers, and the companies spending 250,000-plus on a digital press. However, for the great majority of printers and most of the 9,000 users of colour production digital presses in the UK, this may not be such a good approach.

There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, the cost of these combined digital and offset workflows is, in many cases, more expensive than the digital press, and although this is not an issue if you can quickly recoup the investment, it is beyond many companies’ budgets. Secondly, there are now so many ways of checking files for digital presses that the highest priority is to actually make sure you use your existing capabilities, and, if necessary, invest in one of the lower-cost but very capable products on the market. In today’s price- and profit-per-job pressured market, it is vital that you automate the file-checking capability. If you don’t, and you have to manually check the jobs, then you are probably losing money.

The latest versions of today’s colour servers/RIPs from Creo, EFI, Global Graphics and Xerox all include some file-checking capabilities. Nearly all models from all suppliers have built their own basic tools, but, for example, many Fiery Servers also include Adobe Acrobat, and PitStop. Although not fully automated or able to automatically correct many of the errors, they are a good start.

The other option for automatically checking files prior to being sent to the digital press colour server/RIP is to purchase a separate piece of software and install this on another server. The best known products are from Enfocus, Markzware and Vio. In the majority of cases, these products are cheaper and more flexible than the versions sold on the colour servers/RIPs.

If you are thinking of purchasing a digital press, you should decide how you will automate the checking of the files you receive. Many people think about this too late, and end up with some of the file-checking capabilities they need, but not all of the automated capabilities.

Unfortunately, the developers of the colour servers/RIPs have not really developed their file-checking capabilities as fast as they should have done. By now, the in-RIP/colour server capabilities should be fully automated. This means today’s colour servers are a significant compromise when it comes to automated file checking. For this reason, I would seriously consider purchasing a less costly colour server/RIP and spending the money you have saved on a separate server with automated file checking software from Enfocus, Markzware, Vio or one of the other specialists in this field. The automation needed will be available soon, and maybe when they all implement Adobe Print Engine 2.0 in the colour servers/RIPs, this will happen for PDF workflows.

The lack of this capability is why many of the companies that purchased digital presses over the last few years are not making the profits they expected.

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