At the start of Print05 GretagMacbeth announced they had delivered their 1,000th Prinect Image Control system to Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, which sold it already to a customer in Germany. Image Control is Heidelberg's color measurement, management and control system for the Speedmaster presses that spectrally measures the complete image of the printed sheet and automatically adjusts the presses inking systems to ensure consistent and accurate color throughout the press run. Heidelberg offers meanwhile release 4 of the Image Control software. This provided a major enhancement to the functionality of Prinect Image Control through the use of specially designed targets called Mini Spots monitoring the printed quality and providing data for fast reactions to changing printing conditions during production.

I have felt for many years that spectral measurement of color was the best solution for full print workflows. I have written in the past that I felt it was an inconsistent approach for most printers to use spectral measurements in the prepress areas of their businesses, but then to switch to measuring ink densities when running the press. In my opinion it is extremely difficult to implement full color management throughout the workflow when two different color approaches are used.

I have always been impressed with the total approach taken by Heidelberg in its overall workflow using spectral measurements at all stages from job creation to delivery of the finished printed sheets. This is all part of the overall Prinect workflow solution. With the announcement of the 1,000th Prinect Image Control, and the release 4 of the Image Control software, I thought it would be good to get an update on what Heidelberg is doing with Prinect, and also try to find out the direction where the Prinect Color Solutions may be going.

To do this I took up the opportunity to interview Dr Jürgen Rautert, Member of the Management Board of Heidelberg, responsible for Engineering and Production. The following is a summary of our discussion.

WTT: Can you define the role of Prinect within the overall Heidelberg workflow solution?

JR: Prinect is the name for Heidelberg’s workflow solutions and is the roof over any workflow related software. This falls into three areas. These are Production Solutions linking prepress, pressroom and finishing; Management Solutions, which is the integration of management information systems into the production workflow; and Color Solutions, which comprise a whole array of products and functions for true-color, cost effective production in the digital workflow.

WTT: Prinect was launched at drupa last year as a fully integrated workflow using JDF. Are all the components of Prinect now fully JDF enabled?

JR: Prinect workflow was launched at drupa 2000 when its inter-connectivity was still using the CIP3 standard and the 1995 published Host Interface to integrate with Management Information Systems. Also at drupa 2000 the JDF initiative was introduced which lead 4 years later to the launch of the JDF enabled version of Prinect at drupa 2004. All the systems modules within Prinect with the exception of the Management Solutions are developed within Heidelberg. All of these modules are fully JDF enabled. This has meant rewriting all modules to fit in with the JDF standard.

By doing so, we are open to any MIS system, which complies with JDF Version 1.2. This is important for our customers who want to benefit from the functionality of Prinect but continue to use their MIS system. There are around 180 vendors of printing industry MIS systems, and most of these are specifically for local markets. Of these there are 10 – 12 major vendors – most of them are already adapted into the Prinect system, all through JDF. In the case of these systems all the vendors have written their applications according to the standards defined in the JDF specification of the CIP4 organization. Also so is Prinance, Heidelberg’s MIS system.

WTT: Does Heidelberg provide any specific tools or assistance to MIS and other vendors to assist them in interfacing into Prinect?

JR: Heidelberg publishes interface specifications to the Prinect modules, and provides a support group to work with vendors to assist them in their implementations. For any vendors ‘first with Heidelberg’ there is a three staged approach. First meetings are held within CIP4 interoperability tests and second Heidelberg staff meets with the vendor to carry out more detailed testing before finally implementing the solution at customers site.

WTT: That help is for MIS vendors. Does Heidelberg provide equivalent assistance to vendors with competitive products, such as prepress workflow, to link into Prinect?

JR: Due to our integrated approach, we strongly encourage our customers to have a complete line of solutions from Heidelberg where we offer it. We do however support interfacing with other prepress systems. Our openness may be underlined by he fact, that today around half of our Pressroom Systems are linked into 3 rd party prepress.

WTT: What about the Color Solutions area, and your approach using spectral rather than density measurements on the press sheet?

JR: Heidelberg has been promoting spectral color measurement for many years, and today there is no need to defend this position. It is the only truly accurate solution. For example inks of different suppliers, even different production lots from one supplier can produce a variance of up to 5 Delta E – not to speak about the influence of paper, water and press settings. Density measurement cannot identify this and consequently the color on the sheet will not be consistent. Using spectral measurements is the only way to ensure accurate color.

WTT: What products has this been used in up to now?

JR: Our first measurement system for press sheets was the CPC-II in 1981 that used the world’s first scanning densitometer. In 1990 the CPC-2S was the first press sheet measurement system to use a spectrophotometer for measurement, reading the color bar and adjusting the ink settings through a closed loop control system. In 1998 we introduced Image Control where for the first time we could measure the complete image and hence color anywhere on the printed press sheet.

WTT: You have just announced the 1,000th Prinect Image Control sale, and the surprise in the announcement was that you have a close partnership with GretagMacbeth in the development of Prinect Image Control, and all the on-the-press color measurement products leading up to that over more than 20 years. Up to this time Heidelberg had never announced that such systems were not totally developed in-house by Heidelberg. Is this a change in strategy?

JR: Heidelberg has specific core competencies, and it emphasizes these in prepress press and postpress areas. Other companies have their core competencies, and GretagMacbeth is one of these. They are clearly the best in class of all companies in the color measurement field. We have worked with them for a long time, and have an agreed road map drawn up with them for developments over the next couple of years. Strategy hasn´t changed, the way to communicate has.

WTT: What are the main functionality enhancements of Prinect Image Control 4.0? Does this add any major enhancement to improve the functionality of the solution?

JR: Prinect Image Control is the cornerstone of the Prinect Color Solutions. This is a measuring system, which not only controls spot colors as easy as process colors, but also communicates perfectly between the prepress and the pressroom. It automatically detects the type and position of color bars and the new Heidelberg Mini Spots™, which have previously been set in Prinect Signa Station. Thanks to its spectrophotometric measurement device and the Mini Spots and the Prinect Quality Monitor, it is possible to modify process calibrations and ICC profiles with almost every job. The repeat printing of test charts is no longer required to ensure a reliable print quality with every job. Deviations in print will be detected automatically and the corresponding corrections will be sent to prepress to ensure constant quality with the next job. For the first time standard values for ISO 12647-2, GRAcOL and Japan Color have been integrated.

With the new option “Color Assistant” of Prinect CP2000 Center the printer is now able to optimize his ink key presetting during production. As soon as he receives the OK-sheet, he needs to push only one button and the actual presetting curve is modified. The result is that for the next job, the amount of ink that is delivered from the ink fountain to the plate is optimally dosed for the print subject.

In addition to that, we offer “Plate on Demand” in conjunction with Prinect MetaDimension. With the push of a button on CP2000 the printer gets direct access to the RIP and can start the imaging process directly from the pressroom.

WTT: At the moment Prinect Image Control is mainly used to control one or up to four high-specification Speedmaster presses, and Prinect Axis Control is mainly used to control a Speedmaster 74 or 52 press. Do you expect the technology of these two products to become almost a standard fixture rather than an option on future presses?

JR: In the mid-term I would expect most high-tech presses would have color control. Already today nearly all longer Speedmaster presses sold in major markets are equipped with Image Control.

WTT: You stated earlier that Heidelberg and GretagMacbeth have an agreed road map for future developments in how color measurement will be used in future products. Can you give us an indication of what this might be?

JR: You would not expect me to announce future products, but I can give you an outline of our vision. You may have seen a technology demonstration we had at drupa in 1995, were we had a Speedmaster CD with scanning technology, measuring color and identifying items like paper hickies at full production speed inline. The technology used however was far too expensive to be put into production. Our vision is to see color measurement built into the press, checking every sheet, and adjusting the press on a continuous basis for both ink and paper set-ups. Such a press would be simple to operate and would require minimal operator intervention in running. It also would allow for very quick make-readies making it far more competitive against digital presses for very short run color printing.

WTT: That’s a very exciting vision. I look forward to seeing it. I wonder if drupa 2008 is your target for this. Thank you for your time and information.