Star product: Esko Suite 14

By Simon Eccles, Monday 28 July 2014

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The latest version of Esko’s do-it-all design/production package.

star-esk-visualizer-in-illustrator

What does it do?

Suite 14 is this year’s update to Esko’s modular portfolio of design and production software for packaging, labels and large-format display printing. Its modules range from creative design through to structural design, pre-press, colour management and separation, automated workflow, ripping and output. 

This is the latest version of the package launched as Suite 10 in 2009, itself developed from programs that had been created separately by Purup-Eskofot and Artwork Systems prior to their merger in 2008. These were rationalised, with some modified to work together and others replaced. 

When was it launched and what market is it aimed at?

Suite 14 was announced in June at the Eskoworld user event in Florida. It will be progressively rolled out to Esko’s worldwide user base during July. 

The primary markets are packaging (folding and flexible) plus labels. A version of Suite 14 called i-Cut Suite 14 has features developed specifically for wide-format digital printing and cutting tables. 

How does it differ from previous versions?

Automation has been extended, especially in the Automation Engine server where some processes will start as soon as a job comes in, even before the operator sees it. This might include preflighting, gathering of assets, communicating with the MIS and checking on substrate availability. 

ArtiosCAD has a range of improvements to do with die-making, and gains more realistic 3D visualisation when folding corrugated and cartonboard.

Smart Templates have been introduced to handle package variations.

A new Connect engine makes it easier to link Esko software to third-party systems, such as an MIS, but also less obvious items like geolocation and weather forecast sites so signage erectors can plan installations to avoid high winds, for example. 

ArtPro+ is a new application that aids quality control for both ArtPro and PackEdge designs. The Studio 3D package design system gains two new flexible pack designs, including the ‘Quattro Seal’ bag. Creativity is extended through a partnership with Chili Publish to develop and integrate an in-browser editor for packaging design, claimed to be a world first. 

Esko has opted to use the Adobe PDF Print Engine for the first time with this version of Suite, having previously developed its own RIPs. 

What’s the USP?

There’s nothing else on the market that covers such a range of functions for the core sectors of packaging, labels and large-format display work. This is partly because today’s Esko is the result of mergers between nearly every Western European packaging label software developer from the past 30 years. 

Jan De Roeck, Esko’s director of solutions management, says: “We fulfil the requirements of packaging, labels and display manufacturers, that’s all that we do. Esko’s conscious decision to no longer write software for the general graphic arts market puts us in a league where it is difficult for any competitor to catch up.”

How easy is it to use?

The user interfaces of some modules have been modified by increasing the amount of context-sensitive menu displayed. The WebCentre browser-based collaboration tool now has an improved interface, 64-bit operations and runs HTML5. WebCentre servers can interact across the supply chain to ensure all parties know and acknowledge changes to job specs, for instance. 

What training and support is on offer?

All users are on a service contract that includes upgrades to the new Suite 14 components. Webinars are offered to help operators learn new features. More extensive training is offered for new operators or new functions, either on- or off-site. 

What are the sales targets?

De Roeck says that there are about 12,000 Esko user sites worldwide, all of which will be upgraded to Suite 14 or i-Cut Suite 14 via service agreements. 


SPECIFICATIONS

Price Esko prefers to keep most production module prices open to negotiation. However its Illustrator plug-ins start from £240 and are typically about £1,100, up to £6,300 for speciality items such as shrink sleeves. Studio Visualiser is about £4,500, Store Visualiser is about £17,300. Automation Engine Server can range from £8,000 to £32,000.

Contact Esko 0121 667 4200 www.esko.com


ALTERNATIVES

There’s nothing else on the market that offers the range of functions of Suite 14. However, there are alternatives to aspects of the system. Most of these can also work alongside Esko products through common file formats or integration via XML, JDF, etc. 

FFEI RealPro Toolkit

RealPro Toolkit is a modular suite of design and production plug-ins for Adobe Illustrator that can be bought in six different combinations. Although originally intended for packaging and labels work, it can be used with any complex Illustrator based artwork and will fit in with any PDF-based workflow. It’s an alternative to the Esko DeskPack suite of plugins.

Packages Search (£2,000 but with five and 10 user licences also offered); Nest (£4,550); Prepare (£4,000); Flexo (£5,200); Studio (£8,000). The Complete package of everything is £10,700. Options are TIFF (£2,350), Seamless (£2,350) and Warp (£1,200)

Maintenance and upgrade contracts £1,600 per year (optional)

Contact FFEI 01442 213440 www.ffei.co.uk

IC3D Suite

IC3D Suite is a photorealistic 3D visualiser for printed packaging and special effects. It works alongside Adobe Illustrator with bi-directional links, taking 2D artwork and mapping it onto 3D shapes. It competes with aspects of Esko’s Studio Designer and Studio Visualiser modules. 

Price £7,950 plus annual maintenance cost

Contact London Graphic Systems 020 7759 4545 www.londongraphicsystems.co.uk

Kodak Prinergy Powerpack

This is a packaging-specific version of Kodak’s Unified Workflow solutions, with dedicated user interface and terminology. It provides preflighting, trapping and colour management, creation of packaging-specific plate layouts, set up of soft and hard proofs as well as final output to file, plate, film or flexo/gravure cylinders.  

Price From £70,000 but scalable up to £150,000

Contact Kodak 0870 8500204 www.graphics.kodak.com

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