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Commentary & Analysis

FREE: Prepress Round-Up

By Cary Sherburne,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: October 26, 2004

By Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor October 26, 2004 -- The prepress segment at Graph Expo seems to get bigger every year as both the role of workflow and the need to migrate to a more automated production process increase in importance. Following is a snapshot of representative prepress developments as reflected by the Graph Expo show floor. Not exhaustive by any means, this representative review will offer insight into where this segment of the market is headed. Look for other prepress news in company-specific stories published by WhatTheyThink during our Graph Expo coverage. And check out the paper developments from Mitsubishi, Mohawk and Unisource included in this review! Adobe Systems announced two key initiatives at Graph Expo designed to help address a number of issues within the industry. The Variable Data Publishing initiative is being launched as a multiphase initiative to address the need for education and awareness on the part of designers, ad agencies, and others who are commissioning printing and publishing work. Adobe has established a variable data publishing resource center at www.adobe.com/vdp. Their goal is to make every campaign a personalized, customized campaign by making it easy to produce variable data applications. Adobe is also expanding its Adobe Solutions Network. Currently, the initiative features a basic level, which can be accessed at no charge, and an authorized level at $595 per year that includes unlimited technical support calls, one copy each of the Mac and PC versions of the Creative Suite for a year, and well as the opportunity to be included in the beta testing process for new Adobe products. According to Michelle Wohl, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, “Our research tells us that printers are extremely important to our product launch process. We believe the adoption of InDesign was actually slowed down by printers not being ready to print files output by the solution.” With that in mind, Adobe is adding another level to its Solutions Network: The Premium Program at $995 per year features the benefits of the Authorized program, plus unlimited prepress support and on-site customer training. Premium partners are also eligible to participate in the Adobe product development cycle even before beta to provide feedback in the requirements definition process. The Premium program will be available in November. DALiM Software demonstrated a new version of DALiM DiALOGUE, an on-line facility to provide remote and collaborative viewing and soft proofing of high-resolution files via the Internet and the only soft proofing application that runs on the Mac OS X operating system. Version 3.0 features a new job approval system that can automatically initiate pre-defined actions upon authorization from a user-specified approval list. In other open systems workflow production announcements, DALiM also demonstrated DOTDRiVE, an interface tool for its JDF-ready TWiST intelligent automated workflow software; expanded support for the Mac OS X operating system across its product portfolio; and a partnership with Xit ron to offer Xit ron ’s Navigator RIP, running on the Linux operating system, to DALiM Software customers worldwide. Enfocus CEO David van Driessche says that Instant PDF 3.0 closes the communication gap between the creative and production processes, providing document creators and receivers the means to achieve consistent PDF output and quality control via Certified PDF technology. The company announced at Graph Expo that Instant PDF 3.0, shown for the first time at drupa, had begun shipping. In other Enfocus news, the company unveiled Enfocus PDF Workflow Suite. By combining Instant PDF, PitStop Professional, PitStop Server and a CertifiedPDF.net license, Enfocus gives publishers and printers all the tools needed to set up, communicate and implement PDF quality specifications, as well as check and correct incoming PDF files, in a cost-effective bundled solution. Enovation announced it would be distributing the new Xerox DocuColor 8000, launched by Xerox at Graph Expo. At the show, Enovation featured the “Unlock Your Digital Profit Center” road show operated in conjunction with Xerox and EFI , demonstrating how digital printing can help printers revitalize their businesses and improve their bottom line. Enovation was also showing its FINALPROOF GxT system from Fujifilm which offers a number of unique features in response to the growing demand for the expanded color capability and versatility in proofing substrates ; the product is based on the FINALPROOF 5600 proofer . It features contract quality, true halftone dot, pigment-based digital proofing and Fujifilm’s Thin Layer Thermal Transfer technology, which allows for higher resolution proofing . The company also debuted debut the new Fujifilm/Epson Stylus Pro inkjet devices , the result of a worldwide agreement with Epson joining Fujifilm’s expertise in color with Epson’s line of inkjet proofing devices. Fujifilm debuted its new Javelin 9800 external drum platesetter at the Enovation booth, featuring a next generation imaging system incorporating a 512-channel exposure head , with the ability to output up to 29 plates per hour at 2,400 dpi. The company also featured Taffeta, a new generation of FM screening . According to the company, Taffeta will help printers to achieve reduced graininess and improved printability. Enovation also highlight ed several unique, turnkey computer-to-plate solution bundles for commercial printers , with more information and an online configuration tool available at www.turnkeyctp.com . Esko-Graphics used Graph Expo as the venue for the first major U.S. demonstration of its SCOPE workflow configured for commercial printing. Esko-Graphics’ fully network - and Web- enabled SCOPE workflow manages multi-site, distributed design and production workflows. SCOPE links traditional prepress functions with sales, pressroom, finishing and logistics departments: JDF links provide functions like job scheduling, remote viewing/approval, and plateroom feedback. Project coordination, digital asset management and distributed proofing and approval enable partners to collaborate globally in real time. Kim Graven-Nielsen, Esko-Graphics’ President and CEO, said, “We have been in business for a couple of years now as Esko-Graphics, and have gone through a number of changes. Everything has been focused on figuring out how we, as a company, can add more value to our customers in an industry which is changing as fast as any technology-driven industry. The key is to help customers build efficiency throughout the entire supply chain rather than focusing on the individual tasks on the floor. The market in which we can do that most effectively is the packaging market. We will still have disruptive technology for commercial print, but our packaging focus is a refinement of where we have been going the last few years.” Global Graphics announced that Epson America has chosen the ColorBurst RIP, based on Global Graphics Jaws RIP technology , to bundle with the Epson Stylus Pro 4000 Professional Edition, Epson’s premier printing system for digital proofing, fine art and digital photography. The company pointed to the announcement as another indicator of the widespread adoption of its core technology components in digital printing solutions. Ralph Lloyd, Global Graphics’ Vice President of Product Marketing, indicates that Global Graphics has delivered consistent profitability, and to maintain that profitability, the company is focusing on delivering a wide range of JDF-enabled tools that can be incorporated into workflow solutions, rather than focusing on the delivery of an overarching workflow solution. The company markets its products through dealer, system integrator and OEM channels and believes this approach will provide its customer base with the most flexibility while making the best use of Global Graphics resources. GMG , specializing in high-end color management and proofing solutions, made a number of announcements at Graph Expo, including an agreement to standardize on X-Rite’s new DTP70 (Slingshot ) spectrophotometer for high end color proofing solutions ; the addition of a 1-Bit-Creator feature for GMG DotProof and GMG FlexoProof ; and significant enhancements to GMG ColorProof 04, with particular emphasis on a high level of automation and a seamless integration into various workflow systems. According to Jim Summers, President, GMG USA, “By integrating the SWOP and Gracol standards, GMG answers the growing demand for global standardization and brings high-end color management within the capability of all users.” GMG also launched FlexoProof 04 to meet the particular needs of the packaging market. With its printing substrate simulation, the FlexoProof 04 proof simulates what the final printed piece will look like on the substrate it is ultimately targeted for (cardboard, corrugated, etc.). With this unique solution, packaging printers and their customers can get the same dot gain, the same dot structure and the pattern—in color—of the background material the piece will be printed on, adding a new dimension to contract proofing for the packaging industry. Another new product in the GMG portfolio is InkOptimizer. This application automatically reduces the amount of chromatic colors, which, according to Summers, “promises ink savings of up to 25% on the press, while maintaining quality and improving printing conditions.” While not directly related to prepress, I was interested to see, during the Heidelberg press conference, Marcel Kiessling introduced as the new President of Heidelberg Americas, Inc. Kiessling, former Head of the Germany/Switzerland Market Center and President of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen Vertrieb Deutschland GmbH, assumed the role September 1 st. The sales region of Heidelberg Americas, operated out of Atlanta GA, comprises Canada, the USA, Mexico and South America. Kiessling, 43, joined Heidelberg immediately following his graduation from the University of Mannheim in 1989. Among other roles within Heidelberg, he was the General Manager of the Direct Imaging business unit. While Heidelberg’s current CEO, Bernard Schreier, certainly shows no signs of being ready to retire, one wonders whether Kiessling is being groomed as the heir apparent. Heidelberg’s Prinect Experience attracted much attention at Graph Expo. According to Ray Cassino, Heidelberg USA’s Director, Prepress Product Management, “ The Prinect tour was such a success at drupa, we decided to transport it to Graph Expo. The purpose of the Prinect Experience is to convey the concept that CIM has arrived for the printing industry. The important thing to note is that all products being shown there are shipping products. Everything you see is real—everything in there you can buy today.” The Experience consisted of eight stations and ten production steps, from job entry into MIS right through the prepress products, with a simulation of the print run on a press console and, depending on the specific job, into finishing—cutting, folding, stitching. At the end of the Experience, visitors are provided with a report on how much the job cost, how long it took and how much profit it delivered. Structured to be a quality experience, each group consisted of no more than four participants. Even with such a small group size, the Prinect Experience accommodated as many as 24 visitors per hour, every hour the show was open. Cassino indicates that he expects the Prinect Experience to become a regular part of Heidelberg ’s trade show presence. It also is in the process of being incorporated into the main Heidelberg USA demonstration center in Kennesaw GA. Cassino says, “Everyone assumes that Heidelberg is making significant investments in heavy metal. What the Prinect Experience shows is the level of investment we are also making in software and workflow products and prepress technologies.” The IPA was promoting its JDF Expert Certificate Program at Graph Expo, a series of 13 Web-based courses. Each course is one hour in length and a new course is held every two weeks. This means that it takes 26 weeks to complete the program using the live webcasts, or students can pick up at any point by using the recorded version. The fee for program for members of IPA and CIP4 is $1,050; the non-member fee is $1,570. At the conclusion of the program, to become a certified JDF expert, participants take an online exam for a fee of $199. According to the IPA’s Dave Haradon, “Thirteen people from the first session have become JDF experts. They took a 100-question exam which must be completed within six hours. The beauty of the Webinar format is that for the same program fee, you can have as many people in a conference room as you like taking the program; the exam fee is assessed per individual.” Who should take this program? According to Haradon, anyone in an organization that is responsible for the implementation of JDF in their business. This could include the CTO, CIO, technical specialists, and even the purchasing team. He says, “If I were making a major investment in equipment or software, I would want to make sure I had someone on the purchasing team that could ask the right questions about JDF. Business owners should also participate for strategic planning purposes, as well as sales people who are responsible for communicating with customers, and customer service people. Truthfully, the entire organization can benefit from this live, interactive program that includes Q&A with the experts. You can access it from anywhere—we even have some attendees from Saudi Arabia . You should have at least one JDF expert in-house.” A visit to the JDF Pavilion revealed continuing growth in the JDF interoperability occurring between applications and companies. According to Barbara Hanapole, Executive Director of B2 Marketing, CIP4’s marketing agency, “The biggest change since drupa is in implementation. We have been tracking the number of interoperable pairs, but now we are getting more into a quality assessment in terms of the automation that is being impacted by the pairings. We are in the third edition of the JDF Marketplace, available for download from the CIP4 site. What started out as a 75-page document is now 177 pages, a listing of all JDF-enabled products available in the marketplace. We are also seeing the level of functionality between pairs and vendors increasing. The next step will be to put a name and a face to the whole thing by featuring printers who have implemented these JDF-enabled solutions.” Markzware announced FLIGHTCHECK Studio, a solution that adds preflight capabilities to popular desktop publishing applications. FLIGHTCHECK Studio allows a designer or project manager to create an initial design specification for a document which watches over the document during creation, alerting the designer about potential problems. When a deviation from the specification is detected, FLIGHTCHECK Studio allows the user to quickly resolve the problem by performing automatic corrections. The product has a list price of $299. Mitsubishi Imaging had a busy show, with a number of announcements. A leading supplier of polyester printing plates, Mitsubishi used Graph Expo as a platform to continue to promote its belief that polyester plates are an affordable solution, still attractive to a large number of small and mid-sized printers. The company showed a number of solutions that demonstrated its dedication to this medium, including a technology demonstration of a new version of its Silver DigiPlate. The new matte backed material, SDP-FRm175, delivers improved registration, superior tone reproduction, and enhanced on-press performance. According to Mitsubishi, the matte-backing has been optimized to provide initial plate registration accuracy and improved response to registration adjustments. Highly visible at the Mitsubishi booth was the Canon Color Card Printer system marketed by Mitsubishi Imaging and designed to produce full color business cards and postcards. With this inkjet six-color solution, color business cards can be printed at a rate of 80 cards per minute, and postcards at 35 cards per minute. Mitsubishi also featured its new Coated Electrophotographic Paper for use with laser printers, high-speed color copiers, and dry-toner digital presses. Available weights range from 80# (120gsm) text to 93# (250gsm) cover, and sizes include 8.5” x 11”, 17” x 11”, and 18” x 12”. Mitsubishi also featured what it touted as the industry’s first dedicated 4-up polyester platesetter. Developed jointly by Mitsubishi Paper Mills Ltd. and Esko-Graphics, the new DPX 4 produces press-ready plates, up to 26.7" x 29.5", with a minimum of operator intervention. The plates are automatically loaded, punched, exposed, processed, dried and ready for press. Adding to its broad product portfolio, Mitsubishi is also marketing EFI’s OneFlow digital workflow solution, which allows users to customize workflows to suit the demands of specific shops, job mixes, and installed systems. Drawing a lot of attention in the booth was Mitsubishi’s new Diamond Jet Vision media, ideal for window advertising, POP displays, trade show displays, sun shields, and seasonal decorations. Vision is a specially coated perforated paper with a black reverse side on an adhesive release paper. After printing, the advertising image is visible from the outside while the view from the inside remains clear. Vision is the first paper-based product of this type in the marketplace. Mohawk Paper Mills, long a developer of high-quality papers for digital printing, has added another feather to its cap. Mohawk Color Copy 100% post-consumer recycled copy paper, launched a year ago and delivering solid sales results for Mohawk, will be widely available under the Mohawk brand through the 2005 OfficeMax Paper Resource Guide. A result of the merger between Boise Office Solutions and OfficeMax, the newly re-branded resource guide is targeted for large contract customers. According to Mohawk’s Chris Harrold, “We were impressed by OfficeMax’s commitment to environmental responsibility. This is an important theme for major multinationals.” Not only is the paper made with 100% post consumer recycled fiber, the company uses wind power in the manufacturing process. Harrold indicates that Mohawk Color Copy 100% PCW looks and performs like a virgin fiber stock. Pageflex unveiled its new Storefront product for the U.S. Market at this year’s show. According to Pageflex CEO Anna Chagnon, “After drupa, where we first showed Pageflex Storefront, the market reaction was fantastic. This is the first product in Bitstream and Pageflex history where we have actually sold the product before it was released. We closed seven sales as soon as we were able to start taking orders at the end of June.” Pageflex Storefront provides a quick and easy way for printers to establish an e-commerce Web presence. Chagnon reports that customers can easily be up and running within a couple of weeks. Pageflex Storefront allows authorized users to access a library of template-based marketing materials, customize them in accordance with permissions and distribute them electronically or to print. The product sells for $55,000 to $65,000, depending on configuration. Pantone, in partnership with ColorVision, launched the Spyder2 colorimeter, the latest addition to the PANTONE COLORVISION product line, for monitor calibration. The hardware design is modern and edgy, and it is designed to be able to easily be tossed in a briefcase for maximum portability. It features precise calibration and highly accurate ICC profiles for CRT, LCD and laptop displays. The new software and graphical user interface appear to be very easy to use, and it is priced to sell, starting at $99. Pantone also announced the availability of PANTONE ColorVANTAGE pigment-based inks for EPSON Ultrachrome printers. Newly supported printers include the EPSON Stylus Pro line of wide format professional printers including the 9600, 7600 and 4000 models as well as the EPSON Stylus Photo 2200 large-format photographic printer. PANTONE ColorVANTAGE inks are already available for the EPSON Stylus Photo 1270 and 1280 and the EPSON Stylus Pro line including the 5000, 5500, 7000, 7500, 9000 and 9500. In a related development, Pantone announced that it had negotiated the right to use GretagMacbeth ProfileMaker 5 Publish Pro software and a GretagMacbeth measurement device to develop and distribute International Color Consortium-compliant (ICC) profiles for its PANTONE ColorVANTAGE inkjet ink system. Pantone also announced the immediate availability of a new version of HexWare, HexVector and HexImage that provides PANTONE Hexachrome compatibility with the Adobe Creative Suite. Prepress Training Solutions, formerly Staffing Tools, was touting its 40 prepress-oriented courses, supporting both Mac and PC, which the company offers on an annual subscription. Subscribers can take as many courses as they want for $300 per person per year. The online courses are available 24x7 and each module is 5 to 10 minutes in length, meaning that students can easily fit learning into their daily routines. Managers can check progress and send reminders to staff. According to Julie Jankowski, Vice President of Strategic Development, “Many companies are using our services to help ease the transition to Mac OS X.” Quark launched QuarkXPress 6.5, the newest version of its publishing software. One new feature is QuarkVista, a new XTensions module for image manipulation. QuarkVista software extends the capabilities of QuarkXPress to include image editing within the context of the layout. In addition to standard image adjustments such as color balance, levels, brightness, and contrast, QuarkVista lets users apply a variety of common filters to images used in a QuarkXPress layout. Quark’s President & CEO, Kamar Aulakh, introduced “the new face of Quark” at the company’s Graph Expo press conference, promising to be more customer focused and to change the way the company has been doing business. Aulakh plans to increase the number of customer facing staff, deploy more customer touch through direct sales and marketing—including Aulakh himself spending most of his time on the road—and even offering discounts. The company also plans to engage in more strategic alliances and partnerships. Aulakh said, “We will do nothing that is proprietary, and we are opening up our Document Object Model (DOM) schema, with APIs available now. We are making Quark open, and opening up our file structure.” Unisource launched Technisource at Graph Expo, the newest addition to its private brand paper line targeting digital printing and business imaging applications. The new paper brand contains gloss coated, matte coated, and uncoated color copy papers in a variety of basis weights and sizes, offering customers OEM quality at a better value than competing products. According to Garth Geist, Director of Business Imaging, “Back in March and April, we canvassed the globe and analyzed high end digital printing papers from mills that are known producers of these papers. We were looking for specific properties that are required for high end digital printing, including opacity, smoothness, and coated and uncoated image quality. As a result of this process, we were able to put together our own private brand, leveraging our strength to private brand a paper and make it our own, marketing it at a very attractive price point.” WAM!NET was showing Direct JDF, announced at drupa. With this offering, WAM!NET has JDF-enabled its file transmission service, which receives a file, opens it up, reads the JDF instructions, repackages it and sends it to its target destination. According to Melissa Fox, Market Director, Print & Publishing, “Between drupa and now, we have done JDF interoperability testing with EFI, Adobe, Agfa, and are now in conversations with Creo and one other supplier.” Fox stated that since being acquired by Savvis, the parent company perspective is that WAM!NET has industry knowledge that Savvis doesn’t have, but also understands they need industry specific applications and models. She said, “Despite industry speculation, WAM!NET is not going away.” She did, however, hint that we might see some rebranding initiatives in the not-too-distant future. Xinet showed its WebNative application plug-in for Adobe InDesign CS, Adobe’s page layout and design software, and a versioning plug-in for Adobe Photoshop designed to help companies manage image-naming conventions. Released in 1998, WebNative is Xinet's digital asset management solution that gives immediate, secure 24/7 access to files, print hot folders and archives on the server via any Web browser. WebNative sells for $12,500. XMPie was demonstrating uCreate, the newest addition to its family of products, a self-contained product that works within InDesign and is designed to be intuitive to a designer. Using uCreate, variable data campaigns can be created in an iterative process that allows switching between the design of the campaign and the selection of the variables. By simply linking to a flat file database, a designer can start making elements variable, including the application of conditional logic, within a template using WYSIWYG drag and drop techniques that are very familiar to today’s designers. uCreate sells for $2,500 per user. A fully functional 60-day trial can be downloaded from XMPie or Adobe.

 

 

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