by Cary Sherburne October 2, 2003 -- As we reported earlier, this is the year of JDF at Graph Expo. Exhibitors pitching software and hardware alike were focused on delivering products and solutions designed to deliver improved productivity and a reduced expense base through process automation, with JDF being a key enabler in moving the printing industry to computer integrated manufacturing (CIM). CTP also played a key role at booths throughout the show floor as vendors offered new and improved processors and media for both thermal and violet imaging. Included here are a sampling of what was being shown in the Prepress Area of the show floor. Much more will be covered as the week unfolds. One major and very interesting development was the heightened presence of EFI at this year's Graph Expo. Not only were EFI and Printcafe(whose acquisition is due to be finalized soon) presenting a united front, but EFI added a bevy of partnerships and alliances to its existing portfolio, including Heidelberg, Screen, Presstek, Mitsubishi, Enovation, KPG and an expanded workflow relationship with Xerox. Some of these alliances are briefly mentioned here, and more detail on EFI's activity at Graph Expo was covered in Gail Nickel-Kailing's review which appeared on WhatTheyThink yesterday. Agfa Agfa's booth demonstrated the company's philosophy that the business of printing is increasingly about the front end and that, in fact, the back-end production processes are increasingly dictated by front-end requirements in the Graphic Enterprise. From its new :Delano Publish and :Delano Production to its Sublima Screening and ApogeeX Version 2, Agfa's message for show attendees was focused around improved productivity through integration across the printing enterprise. The company made numerous announcements during the show; a few are reviewed here. According to Christopher LaFontaine, Product Manager, Systems Integration, “Printing is truly becoming integrated manufacturing, and you can't have disparate systems anymore. To achieve this goal, many printers are expending more capital on the front end and IT infrastructure than they are on presses and finishing. Agfa has been very active in the CIP4 initiative, and its efforts to deliver standards-based solutions to the industry were evident throughout the booth. This year at Graph Expo, Agfa introduced two versions of a Web-based customer service tool, :Delano Publish, an interactive, Web-based project management tool designed for publishers, trade shops or other operations that offer in-house PDF-page production; and :Delano Production, a project management tool for commercial printers. This branded Web interface streamlines many of the activities that would normally be accomplished by a customer service representative (CSR), offering access to info rmation by both the printer and the client to enable more efficient file submission, PDF conversion, and online client collaboration for faster review and approval of complex jobs. With this centralized interface, review and approval processes and monitoring of job status that often involve numerous telephone calls and faxes and Post-It note reminders in a conventional environment can be accomplished interactively online. :Delano Publish lists for $40,000, with :Delano Production starting at $75,000. Version 2 of ApogeeX, Agfa's workflow solution, adds increased capability to its successful ApogeeX, including JDF production automation and the ability to utilize multiple processors for load balancing and fault tolerance. Mirrored servers could be implemented for redundancy, and processes that consume a lot of CPU power can be selectively offloaded to a second integrated processor. This means, for example, that multiple renderers can be employed to process a single job to improve throughput. ApogeeX workflow can be implemented for as little as $5,000, and can be scaled up from there depending upon the requirements of the operation. Lesley Hepditch, Apogee Marketing Manager, described the integration between : Delano and Apogee by saying, “: Delano is the CSR of the shop. ApogeeX is production. ApogeeX communicates with : Delano , to display status and other info rmation directly from the production system, using JDF automation, providing a reliable and error-free cross-departmental work process. Our goal with Apogee and companion solutions such as : Delano is to offer the most open, easy to use, flexible, fast workflow on the market.” Also drawing a lot of attention at Agfa's booth was its Sublima Screening. Sublima uses Agfa's cross-modulation (XM) screening technology. With Sublima, Agfa customers report that presses set up to produce 240 lpi output are achiving up to 340 lpi without any extra effort or modifications of press settings, allowing them to achieve market differentiation through higher quality. Agfa also announced that it had entered into an agreement with Printware in which Printware will market Agfa products to selected printers nationwide, including Agfa's complete line of consumables, electronics and workflow . According to Jack Makowski , Printware's Vice President of Business Development, Agfa-branded products will be marketed exclusively by Printware through its business unit, Printware Direct and its telemarketing sales organization and e-commerce site. This agreement expands Agfa's reach into the smaller markets where Printware has relationships and market presence. Printware indicates that Agfa will ship direct to Printware's customers, eliminating the need for Printware to maintain inventory and enhancing Printware's ability to sell the Agfa products at a competitive price. Colorbus After shifting its attention to Europe and the Pacific Rim over the last few years, Colorbus is back in the U.S. market. According to Jeffrey Dowd, Director of Sales and Business Development, the company has signed Xpedex as a national distributor and is looking for additional distribution channels in North America . Colorbus was demonstrating its ability to drive wide format printers from a variety of manufacturers with consistent color fidelity for large format proofing and printing. Colorbus has packaged its offerings in three levels: Studio Designer for the small design studio or print shop; Professional for medium to large shops that require more horsepower; and Large Format Proofer for high-end requirements. Colorbus claims it can speed up the proofing process by using a hot folder workflow that initiates printing as soon as the file hits the hot folder. Pricing ranges from $1,500 to $15,995, depending upon configuration. Heidelberg Heidelberg USA announced plans to collaborate with EFI and Printcafe to integrate Printcafe's Hagen OA print management solution to Heidelberg presses through open JDF connections as specified by the CIP4 organization. Heidelberg USA will also refer its mid- to large-size printing customers to Printcafe's Hagen OA product where it fits their customers' needs in the North American market, continuing to offer Prinance as a fully integrated Prinect system for small to mid sized printers. Heidelberg 's show theme, “Connect/Create,” re info rced the company's focus on computer integrated manufacturing (CIM), and Prinect played a central role in the booth, demonstrating interconnectivity and automation. Jim Mauro, Product Manager for Prinect's Press Products, said, “Our customers often have the misconception that Prinect is a product, when in actual fact it is a strategy that integrates twelve different Heidelberg prepress, press, post-press and digital products into an integrated, JDF-based workflow.” On the prepress side, Heidelberg 's Printready allows the communication of job parameters captured in prepress throughout the balance of the process, including color and setup info rmation for the press and setup info rmation for finishing devices including cutting, folding and stitching. Printready has two components: 1. Digital preparation of the job 2. RIP profiles and settings (MetaDimension 4.0) Printready also integrates remote proofing capability, as well as the ability, through Smart Board, an Acrobat plug-in, to direct individual pages within a project to different devices; for example, black and white pages may be directed to the Digimaster, while full-color pages would be directed to other Heidelberg output devices. Stay tuned to WhatTheyThink for more detail about the many other announcements from Heidelberg at this year's Graph Expo. Lastra Lastra's theme at Graph Expo was “A Plate for All Seasons,” according to Sr. VP of Sales and Marketing , Lane Palmer. The company manufactures both thermal and violet plates. Thermal plates, according to the company, are reliably 10-micron capable and requires no pre-bake. Post-bake can be used for longer runs, but according to Palmer, most customers don't require this step since the plates will run for 250,000 impressions. Lastra thermal plates are certified for Agfa, Esko-Graphics and ECRM, with Heidelberg certification close. New at the show for Lastra are its violet plates, which are just entering the controlled sales phase. The plates are photopolymer rather than silver, and yellow light safe. Palmer indicates Lastra is still pursuing processless plates, but had no estimate as to when they might be available. He did indicate, however, that they would probably not utilize ablative technology. Lucid Dream Software Another hot topic this year is online proofing. Lucid Dream was demonstrating its On Time Proof, a licensed software solution which incorporates Global Graphics' PDF Courier for PDF generation. The solution starts at $2,500, and including in that price is the creation of what Lucid Dream's President, David Lewis, calls design packs, which customize the software to blend with the printer's Web site. This JDF-based solution allows printers to install a print driver at the client site that produces encrypted PDFs to the printer's profile. Enfocus preflighting is incorporated into the solution, allowing file errors to be addressed prior to transmission, or alternatively, to allow error data to be captured within the JDF job ticket accompanying the job to be addressed prior to production. Lewis touts Lucid Dream's ability to produce proofs from actual plate separations as a competitive advantage that allows viewing of real dot proofs for more accurate job representation. Full Acrobat annotation can be used in the review and approval process. PDI Known for its bimetal (copper and aluminum) plates, PDI announced a thermal polymer plate, the Delta 830, designed to be interchangeable with bimetal, with the same ink and water balance, and are rated up to a million impressions. Plates require no pre- or post-baking and no chemistry replenishment is required in the processor (see photo), which uses a solvent-based chemistry. Plate processing takes one to one and a half minutes. The Delta 830 currently runs on Creo platesetters, and certification for ECRM and Screen is underway. Presstek Just prior to the show, Presstek announced commercialization of its process-free Applause plate, ratcheting its chemistry-free strategy up another level. The company was showing both Anthem, which requires only a water wash, and Applause, which images and is ready to mount without further processing. Plates were removed from the Presstek Dimension platesetter and mounted on a Komori press running in the booth to demonstrate its “image and print” capability. Attendees appeared to be intrigued by Applause and the booth experienced heavy traffic. While Applause is designed to ultimately be compatible with any thermal platesetter, and Creo testing is underway, it is currently available only for use with the Dimension platesetter. Gene Scott, President of PonyXPress Printing Services of Reynoldsburg OH, a Presstek beta customer imaging Applause plates on his Creo Trendsetter, was available at the show to talk about his experiences. He indicated that prior to moving to digital plates, he was a waterless offset shop. Scott's shop differentiates itself by using technology to deliver high quality, producing 300 lpi printing. While he has been using Presstek Anthem plates for some time, he is pleased with the Applause results. Most customers appreciate the environmentally friendly aspect as well as, of course, the quality, and shop throughput has been augmented as well. One example of improved productivity is the way PonyXpress handles customer changes during press checks. “If a customer, for example, wanted to bump up magenta,” he says, “rather than playing around with the ink levels, we just call upstairs and have the produce another plate … it's actually faster, and more reliable. We can have the new plate on press in less than 15 minutes and can be up to color in as little as 15 sheets.” Scott claims he has saved a minimum of $3,000 per month in expenses simply by eliminating chemistry. In another development, Presstek announced a partnership with EFI to offer EFI's Velocity OneFlow prepress workflow software with its Dimension Series CTP systems. Presstek expects to gain efficiencies in the plate production process for its Dimension customers with the automation offered by Velocity OneFlow, which has been optimized for the Dimension Series platesetters to increase overall plate production throughput and pressroom productivity. This integration will also offer a JDF-enabled workflow to Presstek's Dimension Series customers.