By Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor October 29, 2004 -- We’ve already covered a lot of the prepress news from Graph Expo, but with the increased emphasis on automation, more productive workflow and a transition to digital, the volume of prepress news is increasing exponentially year over year. So here is more—a summary of prepress news from Creo, EFI, Presstek and Screen. If you are interested in news from a particular supplier, please search the WhatTheyThink archives to access the complete set of stories by supplier. Or view all of the Graph Expo special reports by clicking here. Creo During the show, Creo celebrated its first anniversary in the plate manufacturing business and announced that it would be expanding the capacity of its West Virginia printing plate manufacturing facility in order to meet the rapidly increasing demand for Creo plates. The company plans to construct an additional state-of-the-art lithographic plate production line at its West Virginia facility, more than doubling the plant's capacity. Construction of the new production line is expected to be completed by the end of 2005. In other Creo news, the company announced that it has developed new Spire color servers to support the expanding the Xerox DocuColor line as well as the Xerox iGen3 digital color press, together with a comprehensive package of software integration and color management tools for digital printers and commercial printers who are adding digital printing to their operations. This support includes the newly announced Xerox DocuColor 8000, shown for the first time at Graph Expo. Creo appears to be devoting considerable energy to its relationship with Xerox, including its reseller arrangement with the digital printing giant. In an interesting Spire development, Creo has added a tool for monitoring multiple Spire color servers from anywhere in the customer’s facility using a wireless connection. The Spire is also well integrated into Creo’s Brisque and Prinergy workflows. Creo also added to its proofing solution set with the Veris proofer with open connectivity to other vendors' workflow systems, and the Integris 800 proofer with fast file transfer from the Brisque workflow system, and the ability to print double-sided proofs. Another addition to the Creo portfolio evident at Graph Expo was a new version of its Darwin VI authoring tool, supporting Adobe InDesign CS software and enabling InDesign users to design, author and manage personalized variable information documents. EFI EFI continues to add to its solution set with offerings targeted at the commercial print market, building on the added expertise gained by the acquisitions of Printcafe and Best Color and the continuing integration of those products into the overall EFI product portfolio. See Gail Nickel-Kailing’s coverage of EFI’s workflow and MIS solutions. EFI added Mitsubishi Imaging to its growing list of partners supporting its OneFlow hot-folder-based workflow solution that allows users to customize workflows to suit their specific needs across digital and offset production operations. EFI continues to enhance its Fiery server line, including the Graphic Arts Package, Premium Edition, debuted at the show, including tools for color proofing and control, the EFI ImageViewer for soft proofing, and file converters for the EFI Hot Folders to streamline job submission and integrate the Fiery server into existing graphic arts workflows. The company was distributing two of the booklets in its popular ABC’s series—the ABC’s of VDP and the ABC’s of Workflow, both of which can be ordered by visiting EFI’s Web site. In furtherance of its efforts to educate the market on variable data printing, the company announced a strategic initiative to bring Web-enabled variable data printing solutions to ad agencies, designers, graphic arts professionals and commercial printers by integrating VDP capabilities across EFI's family of Web-enabled digital printing products enabling complete Web-to-Print systems that streamline workflow and help printers provide value added services to their customers. EFI also announced expanded Fiery support for Xerox DocuColor engines, including the new DocuColor 8000. Presstek Long known for its development of technology that fosters environmentally friendly printing through chemistry-free and processless platemaking, Presstek added a new level of productivity to its Dimension Excel chemistry-free platesetters with the availability of an optional Automated Plate Handling System upgrade, developed in collaboration with a leading manufacturer of CTP automation technologies. This upgrade, with its worldwide debut at Graph Expo, will allow Dimension Excel users to configure a completely automated system—from multiple plate selection, punching, slip-sheet removal, imaging, and post-image handling, offering virtual “lights out” plate imaging. Pressteke-enabled direct imaging (DI) presses with the latest ProFire Excel imaging, delivering 300 lpi printing and stochastic screening, were also very much in evidence in the booths of partners KPG and Ryobi. First premiered at drupa, these new presses are starting to gain traction in the U.S. market. Presstek announced that direct imaging (DI) presses enabled with Presstek’s ProFire and ProFire Excel imaging technology have been certified to meet the standards associated with Pantone Hexachrome Printing. Screen Screen featured its PlateRite Ultima 32000Z platesetter, which allows high-speed output on a range of plate sizes, from four-page plates up to 32-page plates. The system can output up to 46 40.5 x 31.5-inch plates per hour (depending upon the sensitivity of the plate media) at 2,400 dpi. The company also showed its 16-page thermal platesetter, the PlateRite 16000. The PlateRite Ultima 16000 can image 23 plates* an hour when outputting 57 x 45-inch plates at 2,400 dpi. Screen was also featuring its Trueflow 3.0 JDF-enabled workflow, which allows connectivity with MIS systems. Trueflow automation for prepress-ready jobs includes preflight, overprint, auto-trapping, imposition and output in multiple formats. It transmits CIP3/PPF prepress data, allowing press operators to preset ink keys. File formats include Outline PDF, RIPed PDF and 1-bit TIFF files for consistent production at remote sites. Trueflow is also integrated with the family of PlateRite platesetters. Screen also showcased its Riteonline print ordering system, Riteportal Internet prepress portal and Ritetransfer file transfer system. Increasing Complexity…Increasing Integration The prepress departments of many print service providers have benefited from being the first area of the plant to enjoy a migration to digital solutions and increased workflow automation. What our Graph Expo 2004 prepress coverage at WhatTheyThink has demonstrated is the rapid evolution toward expanding this integration beyond the prepress department to deliver end-to-end production efficiencies, ultimately enabled by the communication and automation capabilities inherent in JDF-enabled workflows. That means that any discussion of developments in prepress must also include a view of the impact of those developments on the overall productivity of the shop, including customer interaction, print production, finishing and back-office management systems (MIS). The vendor community is on the right track with the consistent messaging you hear from almost all of them—that you must consider the entire shop workflow; that you must make it easy for customers to interact with you 24/7; that you must consider your operation as a manufacturing operation and work to implement the efficiencies of JDF and CIM over time. The next step will be for the vendor community to shape the discussion from the customer perspective, rather than from the perspective of a bagful of three-letter acronyms and technology-focused benefit statements. What does this mean for the customer? For the customer’s customer? How do print service providers lay out a rational, logical path to achieve an end-to-end digital workflow? And what will happen if they don’t? We are certainly making progress, but there is a long way to go. How will the industry look by drupa 2008? If we manage the transition carefully, and keep today’s momentum building, we can hope for significant transformation by the time we all gather again in Düsseldorf!