Commentary & Analysis
FREE: Prepress and Business Solutions at Print 05 Part 3
As I reported in Parts One and Two of this series,
By Cary Sherburne
Published: September 28, 2005
As I reported in Parts One and Two of this series, Print 05 was a busy show—with more than 375 press releases across all categories, and nearly 120 in prepress and business systems alone. As is always the case with events of this magnitude, it is impossible—and probably not even useful—to write about everything and everyone. In Part Three of this three-part review of the “softer” side of print, I continue my coverage of high points and interesting discoveries in the workflow and business systems area, as well as more prepress oriented offerings.
Don’t forget to review the rest of the WhatTheyThink coverage of this massive show for more detail on offerings from companies covered by my esteemed colleagues, including Goss, Heidelberg, HP, IBM, MAN Roland, Océ, Xerox, and many, many more companies who overlap categories that are becoming increasingly harder to discreetly define!
New from Printable is Job Express, a file/print implementation based on Adobe’s Job Ready (formerly PDF Transit). This capability allows users to order one-off print jobs from within the application right from the desktop, producing an encrypted PDF file that is geared toward the print provider’s shop specifications. This module can be added to Printable for $350 plus a fee of $150 per month. It is an affordable way for print service providers, both internal and external to the enterprise, to capture desktop volumes that are currently being produced on more expensive desktop and workgroup print devices. Printable was also showing integration between AccuData and its PrintOne Customer Center, announced earlier this year, providing access to customized prospect databases through Printable’s e-commerce VDP engine. The company was also showing integration between its FusionPro VDP document composition engine and the image personalization technology offered by DirectSmile using business rules to pull in variables, including images, to create documents that are personalized and relevant to the target audience.”
Printsoft, a company from “Down Under” that was founded in 1989, launched an interesting mailing application at Print. DeskDirect is a desktop solution for mailing applications that are done at the desktop rather than in volume. For example, a debt collection worker dialing for dollars needs to follow up on telephone activity with written correspondence. DeskDirect gives workers access to templates for the written correspondence that save time and ensure accuracy in creating letters, and then batches the work from the entire phone center to a centralized production operation using Printsoft’s server application to drive its production printers. This enables consolidation of the volume, optimizing both printing and mailing costs. In one example the company cited, a phone center was able to reduce the number of collections workers from 30 to 10, while at the same time operating more efficiently. It also allows the centralized printing operation, which often experiences peak end-of-month workloads, to balance operational peaks and valleys for better equipment utilization. Printsoft reports that a server solution with a number of clients, including installation and training, would cost in the $200,000 to $300,000 range, with a 4- to 5-cent click charge per letter generated. While on the surface the click charge sounds a little steep, David Frenkel, Printsoft America’s President & CEO, states, “In a traditional desktop environment, it costs 40 to 60 cents per letter, including authoring, printing, folding, inserting, and putting it in the mail stream. This application not only reduces that cost significantly, but it allows companies to recover cost through postal savings, eliminate expensive materials at the desktop such as printer ink, and lessen the mailroom burden. In effect, it turns hundreds of messy little jobs into a bulk mail operation with all of its accompanying economies of scale. And it settles peaky workflow issues for service providers by bringing in off-peak work.”
QuadTech’s busy booth at the show reflected the growing interest attendees have in all things “CIM.” The company continues to build on its ICON (Integrated Control Network) platform, an open interface to multiple press architectures. The QuadTech portfolio of offerings spans color management and control, faster mark recognition for web and ribbon register, seamless integration across its product range, and worldwide service and support. At the show, QuadTech was featuring its MultiCam-enabled solutions that use the latest digital camera technology in a camera specifically designed for use in the web printing environment to recognize and evaluate printed marks on a fast running web . The QuadTech Register Guidance System with MultiCam and the QuadTech Ribbon Control System with MultiCam provide better color-to-color registration and print-to-cut accuracy and have been designed to optimize press performance by improving cold-start registration times, facilitating fast job changeovers and maintaining print registration accuracy to levels that exceed all industry accepted standards. Sharon Quint, QuadTech’s Director of Marketing, reports that following its introduction at drupa, the market receptivity to the ICON platform is an indication of how quickly web printers are jumping on the CIM boat.
I ran across an interesting application in Quickcut QuickPrint. The company has developed a database of complete ad specifications for over 8,500 publications around the world, allowing users to “preflight” ads, not only to ensure that a functioning PDF/X file is being delivered, but also that specifications including bleeds, ink densities, image types and resolutions and many other characteristics are in exact alignment with the publication’s ad specs. It acts as a plug-in to Quark or InDesign and advertisers pay a fee based on each ad transmitted. The program runs some 280 checks, can fix up to 68 different errors automatically, and sends a “faults and warnings” report along with the processed ad. If you are involved in ad submissions, this is worth a look.
The company was also showing AssureProof. Working with EFI’s ColorProof, a hardcopy proof is generated, spectrophotometrically measured to ensure that the proof is within tolerance, and a JDF file with the results is sent from the EFI RIP into the AssureProof application, attached to the PDF file and sent electronically to the publication, enabling the publication to verify that the sender has run a proof and that the proof has been measured and is in spec. This is another graphic arts application that is eating into FedEx volumes.
RIPit was showing a new workflow offering called OpenRIP Symphony. An Adobe CPSI based product, its intent is to deliver file integrity and consistency, especially for files destined for multiple devices. This drag-and-drop application has full hot folder support, and each print queue sports a job ticket editor. Supported functionality includes trapping, basic preflight for fonts, color space, resolution, etc., as well as image preview and basic image enhancement, including deskew, and step and repeat. The core Symphony product lists at $3,500.
RIPit also launched an entry-level violet CTP solution, SpeedSetter VM, in 2-up and 4-up formats. This compact offering retails at $44,950 for the RIP and image setter, with a processor list price of $13,500 in 2-up format. The 4-up imagesetter and RIP lists at $59,500, with the processor available at $17,500 list.
S-Marc was showing a very interesting product called CSR Virtual, which continuously monitors and tracks all changes in file content & color, approval status, usage and generates automatic notifications in a collaborative environment between printer and customer. This type of application can dramatically reduces cycle time, costs and the resources required to produce and deliver printed products. S-Marc is a joint venture between Marcus Technologies (global enterprise automation developer), S-Net, Inc. (prepress technology developer using Kodak Polychrome Graphics Technology and Chuckwalla, Inc. (a provider of enterprise digital asset management solutions). An open solution built on Microsoft’s .NET, CSR Virtual incorporates Chuckwalla’s digital asset management solution as well as Kodak’s RealTimeProof and also integrates Adobe’s XMP. The solution is designed to be scalable, and in accordance with the requirements of large customers, all content is stored in a non-proprietary format rather than a “vault” structure, providing customers with the assurance that their valuable content can easily be migrated to other systems as needed. CSR Virtual is targeted at printers with revenues of $10 million and above, as well as other participants in the printing and publishing value chain. The solution starts at under $60,000 for 10 concurrent user licenses.
Screen drew big crowds with its stunning Cirque d’Soleil-type performance by The Golden Boys, which we also had the pleasure of viewing at drupa, as well as its portfolio of digital products. On display were the TruePress 344 digital offset press and the full line of PlateRite platesetters, as well as TrueFlow 3.1 workflow for CTP, and its suite of Web-based job submission and management tools that include Riteportal, Ritetransfer, Riteonline and Riteapprove. Riteportal 2.0, the latest release of Screen’s Internet customer portal, now integrates Adobe PDF JobReady software and Enfocus PitStop Library preflighting and Certified PDF technology into the Riteportal workflow.
Introduced at the show was the Truepress Jet520 variable printing inkjet printer using Piezo DOD (Drop-On-Demand) inkjet print heads and multi-tone printing, with a color depth of four tones per drop (2-bit imaging) for each color. The Truepress Jet520 consists of a printing unit and a rewinder/unwinder unit. A variety of post-processing equipment can be connected inline to the Truepress Jet520.
Streamline Solutions was showing an Executive Dashboard for its Printstream MIS solution. The Dashboard allows executives to easily configure a fact-based view into all aspects of business operation based on data collected by the MIS. A unique aspect of the user interface is the speedometer-like dials that allow executives to visually see progress against specific targets and metrics. These types of dashboard solutions, also introduced by Kodak (integral to the Kodak Enterprise Management Solution) and EFI (Executive Information System, operating in conjunction with EFI’s Print MIS solutions), have long been available in other industries, and are just now making their way into ours. They turn the massive amount of data collected by the MIS into actionable information for both tactical and strategic decisionmaking.
Xinet unveiled WebNative Portal at Print 05. Released June 1 st and debuted at Print 05, WebNative Portal is a collaborative bridge between content creation and manufacturing systems, including integration with Adobe applications and Adobe’s Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP). With sign-on into one website, printers ’ customers can access assets housed in multiple locations transparently providing users a single view of their data. Gary Cosimini, Adobe’s Business Development Director for Creative Professional Solutions, who spoke at the Xinet press conference, said “The beauty of the integration between XMP and the Xinet server is that it acts as bridge between creative and production environments. XMP that is emitted by the application can be saved with the files and move with them throughout their life cycle.” He added, “Workflow without metadata that can travel with files is almost useless. This integration allows metadata to be written to and from the database, capturing as much metadata as possible automatically and in context.”
XMPie continues to innovate with the introduction of uImage, a PhotoShop-based image personalization tool for variable data publishing that is well worth a look. uImage automatically merges variable image and text data with PhotoShop templates to compose personalized images that are then automatically integrated back into XMPie VDP production. Eyal Goldwerger, XMPie’s CEO, reports that uImage is the first variable image tool based on PhotoShop, extending to the PhotoShop creative community the ability to create visually rich, personalized images and graphics and seamlessly merge them into XMPie variable productions, in print and online. He says, “With uImage you can vary all of the attributes of a PhotoShop image by recipient, including such things as size, scale, sparkle, and much more. Working with Personal Effect, uImage automatically pulls all the required images, acquires rules from uPlan and forms from uCreate, and leverages uDesign for other elements of the page. We believe this fully integrated, highly automated approach will remain unique for a long time. It allows for fully integrated composition of a variable data campaign all the way from the template in PhotoShop to the final piece.” Goldwerger promises that XMPie will continue to launch multiple products per year as it works to bring the power of variable data into the mainstream.
XMPie also unveiled Personal Effect 2.5 with lots of new capabilities. One of the more exciting new options is the ability to generate variable tables of contents and indices, resulting in completely variable booklets. Goldwerger offered the example of an educational pamphlet that might need to be different for each of the 50 states, or a marketing brochure in which every recipient can have a different table of contents and index. He says, “Using this capability, Ink Direct in the UK produced a campaign for Car Phone Warehouse, a large provider of mobile phones, that included a document personalized with 80 parameters for fulfillment post-purchase. Cell phone buyers receive a booklet in the mail, personalized based on their cell phone model and plan. It also allows Car Phone Warehouse to cross-sell and up-sell items that are targeted to the specific plan and cell phone model.