If the number of press releases signifies anything, Print 05 was a busy show - with more than 375 press releases across all categories, and nearly 120 in prepress and business systems alone. The exhibitors I spoke with almost unanimously reported that the show traffic was lighter than anticipated, but that a more focused and better educated buyer seemed to be the rule rather than the exception.

The show was spread out over more than 750,000 square feet, with 17 acres of displays and some 800 exhibiting companies. As you entered the exhibit area, the presses, finishing and “big iron” exhibitors were primarily on the south side, while the prepress, business systems and other software providers were primarily on the north side. And unlike many past shows, the north side seemed to be drawing more traffic than the south side.

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 this three-part article, I will focus on high points and interesting discoveries in the workflow and business systems area, as well as more prepress oriented offerings. As the lines continue to blur and integration becomes more seamless, there is increasing overlap between these two areas, so these two articles are designed to work together to present an overall view of the “softer” side of print.

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!

Apago introduced a unique application with its server-based Apago Cluster Workflow, featuring a sophisticated scheduling and fault-tolerant queuing system that maximizes the computing resources within the cluster. A cluster allows users to manage multiple computers as a single virtual machine, sharing resources on a large scale. Rather than assigning specific tasks to individual servers, Cluster Workflow allows any available server to perform any task. Apago Cluster Workflow includes application modules that perform common prepress tasks such as PDF distilling, ripping, file conversion, preflighting and correction, document assembly, ICC color management, cropping and repurposing. The application modules are based on Apago’s products, including PDF Enhancer, a new version of which was launched at the show.

Artwork Systems was demonstrating a new screening methodology at Print. Called Concentric Screening, it uses conventional AM dots but hollows out concentric rings inside those dots so the ink can gain both inside and outside the dot. According to the company, when using this screening methodology—available with both Nexus and Odystar workflow systems—anything above a 225 line screen looks like continuous tone, with the pressman able to see dots and adjust the color on press, but with less dot gain and no rosette pattern. The company was also showing a new release of the Odystar native PDF workflow system, Oydstar 2.5; Odystar Packaging for the label and packaging markets; and an upgrade of Nexus to Version 8.1. Odystar Packaging allows operators to work in Adobe Illustrator and uses two plug-ins to integrate Illustrator into the workflow: Shuttle for job submission, retrieval and monitoring from any operator workstation, and InPDF, which stands for Intelligent PDF, which allows files that have been processed by Odystar Packaging to be re-imported into Illustrator with full editing capability. Artwork Systems also highlighted Certified PDF technology for Packaging (PA:CT), bringing this important capability, increasingly utilized in mainstream graphic arts, into the packaging arena.

Gee Ranasinha, Director of Marketing for DALiM, indicated that its DALiM DIALOGUE soft proofing solution, which received SWOP certification earlier this year, is “flying off the shelves.” A licensed software solution that sells for about $5,000 with no click charges or client seat license fees, DALiM DIALOGUE has an installed base of about 120 companies. Ranasinha reports that its ease of use is bringing DALiM into new markets, including photographers and architects. He says, “Our philosophy is to focus on the user experience. At the end of the day, it is the benefit it brings to the user that is important, and more and more of these systems are being used by the brands, not the printers. It needs to be ‘Fisher Price’ simple to meet the needs of those audiences.” Expect to see new product announcements from DALiM at IPEX in April.

EFI’s Executive Information System (EIS), covered in a separate WhatTheyThink article prior to the show, drew a lot of attention at the show. This visual business analysis dashboard solution provides customized, role-based visibility into MIS data, a capability that is at long last making its way into our industry. EFI was also touting its Globally Optimized MIS solution, derived from Udi Arieli’s Theory of Global Optimization (TGO) and EFI’s PrintFlow dynamic scheduling solution. With this announcement, every Hagen , Logic and PSI MIS solution delivered by EFI will now include a new PrintFlow Dynamic Scheduling Foundation suite, PrinterSite Foundation, as well as EIS. This offering places critical business information within easy reach for executives and staff in making both strategic and tactical business and production decisions, as well as streamlining operations through more effective scheduling. In addition, core PrinterSite web submission capabilities will also become standard in Hagen , Logic and PSI.

EFI also launched its next generation Fiery System 7, optimizing Fiery Q- and S-Series servers to deliver higher levels of digital printing performance and image quality for commercial and in-plant environments as well as other graphics intensive environments. This release contains a whole host of new features and functionality, including the Production Printing Package of job management and submission tools; EFI Compose; Paper Catalog, a system-based paper warehouse database that catalogs attributes of the media stock available at the warehouse of a production site; and Quick Doc Merge for creation of virtual files at time of print for assignment of production or finishing characteristics. EFI also announced JDF connectivity between Fiery servers and Adobe Creative Suite 2; the Connector works in conjunction with Hagen OA, linking the MIS with Fiery-driven production printing systems.

EFI was recognized with four Must See ‘ems for Fiery System 7, Globally Optimized MIS, PrintFlow and Digital Storefront.

Enfocus introduced Pitstop Automate. Built on the Enfocus PitStop Library platform, Pitstop Automate serves companies wanting to streamline the creation and delivery of large volumes of Certified PDF files, as well as those on the receiving end. Beyond PDF preflight and editing, Enfocus PitStop Automate permits file sorting and conditional workflows based on file type, size and other file or document properties. It also enables splitting multiple page PDFs into single page PDFs, as well as electronic file delivery through FTP and E-mail. These production-oriented features reflect a combination of Enfocus and parent company Artwork Systems' Odystar workflow technology. Pitstop Automate for the Mac will be available in early 2006, and the PC version, which will be shown at IPEX, will be available in the April/May timeframe. Pitstop Automate is fully JDF compliant.

As reported in a previous article on affordable CTP at Print, Enovation announced two new processless plates. The Pro-T thermal processless plate is a non ablative plate that experiences no degradation in speed during imaging. This plate will be available in the first quarter of 2006. Enovation was also showing a violet processless plate, the Pro-V, as a technology demonstration. This is the first processless plate for violet, with the laser power for violet platesetters being the limiting factor to bringing this product to market. Enovation expects to be able to deliver Pro-V processless plates in 2007.

Enovation was also showing the Saber V-6e entry level platesetter for violet, which produces 10 plates per hour and is now available at a list price of $68,000 with a processor.

Both of the processless plates earned Must See ‘em awards, as did C-Fit, enhancement software for scanned or digital images, including RGB to CMYK conversion and automatic image enhancement using hot folders. C-Fit will scan and diagnose image issues and fix those issues. Enovation reports that this solution is already being sold to the photo market, and the company was showing the application at Print to gauge interest in the graphic arts market. Based on the response the company received, look for C-Fit to make its way into the graphic arts space.

Exstream’s Vice President of Marketing, Kelley Sloane, and her team were demonstrating a new desktop application, Dialogue Anywhere for Marketing, which provides marketing professionals with an easy interface to a rich Internet experience as they create variable data campaigns. Dialogue Anywhere for Marketing has an intuitive interface that allows the creation of rules-based variable marketing messages and campaigns from anywhere with Internet access. The solution has full approval cycles built in, and integrates with Exstream Dialogue for production. Dialogue Anywhere for Marketing carries an up-front cost of about $40,000 for the server component, with a per-seat license of $2,500 for the client component. This application delivers the self-serve model that customers are demanding, providing customers with control over content creation, yet leaving operational control in the hands of the print service provider. Exstream has partnered with Macromedia in creating this application, and Sloane reports that this is the first commercial deployment of Macromedia’s Flex technology.

While Global Graphics, manufacturer of the Harlequin RIP and provider of OEM solutions, was not exhibiting at the show, I did have the opportunity to catch up with President and COO Jim Friedah. Global Graphics’ new Harlequin 7.0 RIP was featured in a number of booths around the show, including Presstek and Printware. A key new feature in 7.0 is Print Production Manager, which Friedah indicates will take the Harlequin RIP to a level that makes sense for the smaller printer. Print Production Manager delivers ease of use, allowing users to manage queues and remotely view jobs. Friedah says, “Even though we are constantly making changes and improvements to the product, this is probably the biggest change the market will feel has occurred in our RIP for a long time.”

Global Graphics also continues its work with Microsoft on its new PDL code-named Metro. Friedah indicates that when Metro hits the market at the end of 2006, it will be named XPS (eXtendable Paper Specification). Concurrent with Print 05, Microsoft was conducting a developer’s conference to introduce the specifics to key partners. WhatTheyThink will continue to follow developments as they occur.

More Prepress and Business Solutions at Print

Watch for Parts Two and Three of this series on Monday and Tuesday, September 26th and 27th.