Web-to-Print is a concept that has grown rapidly, right along with the internet and e-commerce in general, and represents an efficient and effective way for printers to interact with customers and partners as they plan and execute print jobs. From submission, to online prepress previews and reviews, all the way to production, web-to-print enables customers and printers to use a variety of tools and rich user interfaces to produce impressive results.
While the quality of end-products made possible by web-to-print processes makes them an attractive alternative to standard design and print options, some of the biggest advantages lie in the workflow.
A fully automated web-to-print workflow can save time and effort while allowing designers, printers and customers to work together to produce high quality, customizable print jobs. Web-to-print applications can include print on demand (POD) with pre-printed materials that are pulled from inventory and even incorporate elements of variable data printing (VDP), a form of POD that is used for mass customization of printed material.
Following is an overview of the various parts of a fully automated workflow that Xeikon recently used for one of its marketing campaigns for Labelexpo 2013. The workflow incorporated everything from uploading label designs and specifications to collecting the printed results.
After registering, users could access a website that was specifically created for the campaign. The website allowed the users to upload individual PDFs, one for each label that they wanted to get printed.
Using the same web application, users could crop the labels and drag & and drop each label onto an A4 page. While a user could upload as many labels as they liked, the ones to be printed had to fit on an A4 page. These customized A4 pages were also stored on the server, along with the user’s contact information.
Forward To the Front-end
After all the individual labels were uploaded by a specific user, the A4 PDF pages containing the labels and the user’s contact information were forwarded to Xeikon’s X-800 digital front-end. A modern digital front-end, such as the Xeikon X-800, combines pre-press, data processing and press operation functionalities, and enables the printing of all common input files as well as easily include (complex) variable data. Integrated into the digital front-end are all the necessary tools required to efficiently implement color management processes, thereby ensuring consistent and reproducible results. Furthermore, the front-end offers seamless integration and connectivity with any market-leading PDF, design and production workflow. As a result, it enables the implementation of fully integrated label production workflows.
The software of the digital front-end allows direct access to the hardware of the press, offering many advantages. It enables the printer to implement closed-loop quality control, such as the measurements taken by the inline densitometer, or any other device. These measurements are then sent back to the digital front-end which can make any necessary adjustments on the fly, without interrupting the print job.
The most advanced digital front-end products can quickly and more efficiently deal with variable data applications and allow printers to work with customers to develop new features to meet their ever-changing requirements. They also allow customers to keep using their own trusted workflow and tools, by adhering closely to industry standards. By doing so, digital front-ends can be a part of virtually any workflow, and work seamlessly with any third party application.
Onward to the Server
All the uploaded labels were also forwarded to a server for analysis to ensure proper image resolution, verify any missing fonts, and to identify which spot colors were used, etc. This part of the process ensured the highest level of quality control.
The Power of the Digital Front-End
The A4 PDF’s were RIPped on the digital front-end. A powerful metadata module embedded in the front-end added information, such as user contact details and a unique bar code, to make fulfillment easier. Print jobs were prepared for printing on different substrates (five difference prime label substrates were chosen for the program). Xeikon ColorControl, Xeikon’s cloud-based color management solution, generated the profiles for these substrates, which the X-800 digital front-end used to convert A4 PDF’s to the color gamut of the Xeikon press.
Print Samples and Reports
The A4 PDF’s submitted via the digital workflow were then printed on a Xeikon 3000 Series digital label press. The front-end also generated a custom page report for each individual label that was uploaded. The metadata module added specific user contact information and unique bar code to each of these reports too.