Category: Production

Print17 – First Take

Pat McGrew
Sep 21, 2017

by Marc Mascara and Pat McGrew

PRINT 17 made timely return to Chicago as multiple hurricanes impacted the southern United States. Roughly 20,000 attendees had the chance to learn from this year’s display of innovation and technology from over 450 exhibitors. The top five vendors remained the same, with only slight changes in booth sizes and rankings, but there was a renewed excitement with more hands-on equipment demonstrations and theatre presentations.

Print 17 Size Table

While PRINT is not a packaging, label, or wide format show, all major vendors were talking about these applications alongside solutions for enterprise and commercial print. It is a big decision to bring hardware to a show, yet a significant number of presses, toner and inkjet, along with finishing solutions were on the show floor.

A focus on print quality resonated throughout the show floor with announcements of new and improved inks, color management and automated calibration systems. Exhibitors such as SCREEN and Xerox are bringing to market ink formulations that enable offset-like quality on standard paper stocks, broadening the debate regarding pre-treatment of paper for InkJet presses. The emergence of inksets and priming solutions for offset stock continues to grow causing end users take note of potential lower costs that give them alternative paths to the print quality their customers demand. While not yet a trend, it will be interesting how ink and priming options play out as a factor in the overall equipment purchasing decision.

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The Rise of Workflow Automation in Wide Format Graphics: Stop it at the Door

Ryan McAbee
Sep 20, 2017

Spend any amount of time around a prepress department, and you will eventually hear “garbage in, garbage out” followed by a few choice words. Some design flaws, such as using Pantone 180 C to Pantone 180 U, can be easily addressed. Other design issues, like low image resolutions, cannot be corrected. The quality of the files that customers provide has a tremendous impact on the speed and accuracy of producing that work.

A robust workflow identifies the issues, automatically fixes as many as possible, and then reports the remaining ones for the operator to inspect. Print shops need to stop problem files at the door or the point of onboarding the job. The further downstream in the production process an error is caught, the costlier it becomes to correct and, in the worst of cases, leads to redoing the entire job.

Stop-it-at-the-door-image

Where the preflight check occurs and by whom depends on how the work comes into the shop. Work entering the shop from a web-to-print solution can be automatically preflighted and pushed back to the user to correct or approve existing issues. For most other file submission paths, someone in the shop will need to submit the file into the preflight software and check the results report. The first line of defense for retail shops is employees at the counter or customer support representatives (CSR) for shops without walk-in service. The first pass will identify any major issues that would involve notifying the customer. The second preflight point, focused more on prepping the file based on the job specs and production plan, is performed at the prepress department. These are the folks that can work on and solve the hard-to-fix issues.

What common issues can preflight software identify and correct?

Identify Fix
Low resolution images No
Color spaces (RGB, Indexed, CMYK, etc.) Yes, conversions
Color name remapping – renaming or consistently naming spot colors Yes
Rich black Yes
Ink Coverage/Total Ink Limit Yes
Overprint/knockout controls Yes
Transparency settings Yes
Page geometry/dimensions Yes
Page bleed – image/object extension Yes
Font embedding Yes
Object manipulations Yes

 

There are several options for preflighting in wide format graphics, all with varying degrees of sophistication. The best approach is to test existing files with known problems against each preflight solution in addition to reviewing its technical capabilities.

  • Independent preflight software solutions, such as Callas, Enfocus, and Markzware. These solutions support all segments of the print industry which make them robust but more complex to setup. There are usually options for automation, e.g., hotfolders or APIs.
  • Included or add-on modules at the RIP/DFE. This option is best as a late stage check before production.
  • As part of a workflow management solution. These offer similar capabilities to the independent preflight solutions and, in many cases, are licensed from those same vendors.
  • Preflight as part of the web-to-print solution. Usually a limited check for image resolution and color space, i.e., RGB.

Preflighting, just like the pre-flight checklist for pilots, is required to ensure everything is in proper working order for a safe and successful journey. Without it your workflow is headed for a bumpy ride.

Read more in the Rise of Workflow Automation in Wide Format Graphics blog series.

Have stories to share or questions to ask, then reach out to @mbossed on Twitter, or LinkedIn, or good ole e-mail.

The Landa Digital Press – It Is Here and Printing

Ralf Schlozer
Sep 13, 2017

September the 12th and coinciding with Print 17 Landa Digital Printing invited selected prospects and press/analysts to their VIP event in Israel, to witness the first Landa Press to go into operation at the Israeli packaging printer Graphica Bezalel.

Landa made a big splash by announcing their nanography technology at drupa 2012. Almost everybody in the printing industry eagerly awaited to see the first installation. Without doubts, the start has been bumpy and the date of the first install has been moved several times, but that can be said about almost every piece of truly new technology in the graphic arts industry. Finally, the day arrived by shipping the first Landa S10 press to Grapica Bezalel in July 2017. After a month of installation, the press has been in operation for two weeks at the date of this event.

Landa S10 at Graphica Bezalel

Landa S10 at Graphica Bezalel

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The Rise of Workflow Automation in Wide Format Graphics: Managing the Work

Ryan McAbee

Managing the diversity of work possible within a wide format shop is challenging. Quotes must be created for customers from estimates based on as-accurate-as-possible costs. Once the order is placed, materials need to be ordered and/or staged for production. The job needs to be scheduled, costs tracked, and deadlines met. Oh, let’s not forget these tasks are multiplied by every job received which is enough to cause panic in the most stoic of managers.

With so much to manage, one would expect that every wide format shop would own a print management software solution. According to the FESPA 2015 Census, only 17.7% of shops owned a print MIS compared with 72.7%% of general commercial printers from that year’s InfoTrends US Software Investment Outlook. While adoption rates have likely increased over the past couple of years and will be reflected in the upcoming FESPA Census, it is unlikely that wide format shops have closed the gap. One reason most print providers avoid changing their existing or adopting a new print MIS solution is the complexity involved which equates to time and cost. Most print MIS solutions need over 6 months to fully implement but the core system of estimating, quoting, and job ticketing can go much faster, so view it as a journey not a sprint.

Print MIS Adoption for Wide Format and General Commercial Printer

Sources: FESPA 2015 Census, 2015 InfoTrends US Software Investment Outlook

Print MIS solutions can also act a central record of truth for the work. If all jobs are entered in the system, then the order’s production status can be tracked, production costs assigned, service level agreements met, and data captured to provide real-time insights or post mortem analysis, i.e. estimate versus actual costs reporting. Having the data in one system unlocks the potential for customizable dashboards to track performance indicators for true business intelligence.

There are many types of solutions that can be used depending upon your situation:

  • Wide format-specific print MIS solutions like Clarity and ShopVox are browser-based solutions that were specifically designed for the needs of sign and graphics.
  • General print MIS solutions, that often started in commercial printing, have subsequently added capabilities for wide format production. Examples include, but are not limited to, solutions from Avanti, EFI, IQ, Optimus, and Tharstern.

The pressure to manage more jobs and increase efficiency is increasing due to customer demands. Shops responding to the FESPA 2015 Census cited shorter turnaround, just-in-time requirements, and shorter runs as the top three trends from customers. The speed of business has changed and seems to get faster each passing year. What might have been possible to manage through manual processes, like creating estimates in a spreadsheet, won’t suffice going forward.

Read more in the Rise of Workflow Automation in Wide Format Graphics blog series.

Have stories to share or questions to ask, then reach out to @mbossed on Twitter, or LinkedIn, or good ole e-mail.

The Rise of Workflow Automation in Wide Format Graphics

Ryan McAbee
Sep 7, 2017

Today’s print service providers know that their bottom line is less about the equipment and more about how fast they can get work to the equipment and on to delivery. That is why automation and efficiency have been at the top of strategic initiatives for commercial printers in our annual software investment surveys for the past several years. Leading commercial printers view the intellectual property around their workflow processes as a distinct competitive differentiator and make investments in software and staff to grow that advantage. In general, wide format sign and graphics isn’t there yet.

The wide format sign and graphics market has some distinct workflow challenges. First, equipment choice still has great influence on what types of applications can be produced and so carries more mindshare. Second, there can be more finishing variables, such as lamination, mounting, stitching, and adding grommets. Then there is still the last mile of installation. Last, sign and graphics is rooted in a RIP-and-print type workflow where the operator still performs many tasks using the RIP software attached to the printer. Here’s a typical workflow for sign and graphics (not all steps are required for every type of product):

InfoTrends-WideFormat-Graphics-Workflow

Source: InfoTrends

A good place to start is to audit your workflow and identify all your current processes. How many of your workflow steps require an operator? Do those steps have options for automation? The good news is that several of the workflow steps for sign and graphics have many paths to automation because those steps are common to other types of print production. For now, let’s start by looking at ways to automate customers submitting files.

Unless you design all work in-house, most jobs start with receiving the customer’s file. Solutions to automate this process range from simple online file transfer to more complex web-to-print. The advantage of online file transfer is that almost everyone knows how to use it without explanation but the downsides are that files usually require an operator to push the file into the next step in the workflow and the job specifications are unknown. There are solutions, such as HP’s PrintOS and Enfocus Switch, that can take files from online transfer and route them into the next step of production, normally preflight. Talk to your preferred vendor to see what similar solutions they may offer.

If you have already been using online file transfer services or simply want to enhance the automation, web-to-print is the next logical step. The advantage of web-to-print solutions, such as Caldera’s Webshop or EFI’s Digital StoreFront (just to name a few), is that the customer’s intent is captured during the order process which can enhance the downstream automation. Getting customer’s trained to use the site and integrating it with the rest of your workflow require time and effort to get in place.

If you are still using FTP, e-mail, and hard media to receive files, there’s opportunity to improve!

Read more in the Rise of Workflow Automation in Wide Format Graphics blog series.

Have stories to share or questions to ask, then reach out to @mbossed on Twitter, or LinkedIn, or good ole e-mail.

A New Development in the Cut-sheet Monochrome Digital Printing Market

Jim Hamilton
Aug 30, 2017

With Canon’s announcement this week of the Océ VarioPrint 6000 Titan it is a good time to revisit the size and scope of the cut-sheet monochrome digital printing market. Despite competition from electronic delivery methods, monochrome digital print volume will remain large for the foreseeable future. Black & white documents are the workhorses of the production world because they provide the needed information without requiring the full marketing push of color print. InfoTrends estimates that monochrome documents produced in cut-sheet production environments will account for nearly 360 billion A4/letter page images in 2017 in the US and Western Europe. This is about 63% of all cut-sheet production digital print volume (color and monochrome) so of course it remains an area of vital importance. A cut-sheet monochrome breakout combining US and Western European data is shown below.

Cut-sheet Monochrome Application Volume by Major Category (U.S. and Western Europe)

Cut-sheet Monochrome Application Volume by Major Category (U.S. and Western Europe)

The monochrome production digital copier and printer market drives large volumes of print for applications like books & manuals, transactional documents (bills & statements), direct mail, reports, forms, and sell sheets. Though the production color digital print market will see higher page growth, and in some cases monochrome applications will move to color, not all applications require color. Therefore, the user requirements of the monochrome market remain important and Read more »

From Chaos to Calm: The Power of Print MIS

Pat McGrew
Jul 20, 2017

Power of Print MIS

If you come from the transaction side of production workflow, you have an array of business systems that control how jobs are accepted for production, when they are released into production, and how reporting is managed for compliance. If you come from the graphic arts side of production workflow, you have the same need to control job onboarding, the touchpoints of a job while it is in process, and to record the relevant information about the job all of the way to the point of billing. In some shops, the process is managed using a Print Management Information System (Print MIS) that integrates all facets of accepting and producing print work using software programs, data capturing tools, and reporting dashboards to ensure that all work is tracked and reported. On the other hand, in many shops some or all of these are activities achieved using sticky notes, whiteboards, projected spreadsheets, and envelopes with job notes carried from desk to desk and machine to machine during production.

If you are in that latter camp, this is a good time to start considering some automation. Many of your competitors are already adding automation to their business software portfolio to allow them to onboard and produce jobs more efficiently. This gives them an advantage at several levels. A good Print MIS program offers insight into the jobs that are onboarded, where each job is in production, what jobs are experiencing delays, job costs, and ultimately a view of the revenue. Most can generate e-tickets for job tracking, and even track waste data. Most importantly, a Print MIS becomes the system of record for all jobs, which means if job specifications change during job execution, the information is entered into the Print MIS and available to all departments immediately.

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Bobst and Radex Announce Launch of Mouvent – a New Digital Print Focused Company

James Hanlon
Jul 18, 2017

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July 6, 2017 — Bobst and inkjet technology developer Radex, officially announced the launch of Mouvent, a new joint venture company that will become the digital printing competence center and solutions provider of Bobst. Mouvent to be led by the co-founder of Radex, Piero Pierantozzi, will bring to market 3 digital devices this year, two single-pass label machines and one multi-pass textile printer, with two additional textile printers to be announced later this year.

Radex was founded by Piero Pierantozzi, Peter Brandenberger, Marcel Galliker and Walter Urech, all of whom were also the founders of Graph-Tech AG, which was sold to Domino Printing Sciences in 2012. Mouvent, co-founded with Bobst in June 2017, has headquarters in Solothurn and Wetzikon Switzerland with 80 total employees. Mouvent shares are held 50.1% by Bobst with the remainder being heled by Radex shareholders.

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Three New Videos: One Book Review and Two on CMYK+ Special Effects

Jim Hamilton
Jul 10, 2017

I recently completed three short videos on topics of interest to the print community:

  • “Postcard Marketing in an Online World” by Joy Gendusa – Joy Gendusa is the Founder and CEO of Postcardmania. Her common-sense approach, numerous examples, and years of experience provide a fascinating look at the world of targeted postcard campaigns. Highly recommended, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. Many thanks to Konica Minolta for providing this book to all attendees of the recent PROKOM user group meeting in Vienna.
  • CMYK+ Effects on a Calendar – This 2017 calendar was printed on a Ricoh Pro C7100 series digital color printer and sports foil effects produced on a Kurz DM Liner. This calendar is a fascinating example of the use of special effects beyond four-color, specifically white toner and metallic foils. Papers used in the calendar come from Favini, Arjo Wiggins, G.F. Smith, and James Cropper. The design work was done by Silk Pearce. The symbol on the front of the calendar box is from a font called FE203 that was designed by Craig Ward. Thanks to Andy Campbell of Ricoh Europe for sending the calendar!
  • Bennett Graphics ‘Senseational’ Sample KitBennett Graphics in Tucker, Georgia sent me this sample kit highlighting digitally-applied spot gloss and foil special effects. The kit was produced on an HP Indigo 10000 and a Scodix Ultra Pro. Each sheet also received a satin aqueous coating that was applied conventionally using an offset press. The resulting designs are stunning. Thanks to David Bennett for sending the kit!

My other videos can be found on the Jim Hamilton YouTube page. I have recorded over 100 print sample videos over the past five years. Other industry-related videos are also there.

DSCOOP EMEA 2017 – setting the benchmark for user groups

Ralf Schlozer

From June 7th to 9th Dscoop EMEA went into its 6th round at the Centre de Congres in Lyon. About 1,300 attendees from more than 45 countries joined the event.

HP went to great lengths to present the latest printing technology live and running to the attendees with four Indigo B2 devices printing at the site (two 12000, one 20000 and 30000), as well as the latest label presses shown in action – including an Indigo 8000 Digital Press. In addition HP shared some installation data, with currently 6,000 Indigo presses installed worldwide in commercial print and another 1,750 presses in label and packaging printing. This includes about 570 B2 engines. Large format latex printer installations amount to about 45,000 by June 2017, outnumbered by one million large format Deskjet devices installed. HP shared some information on the uptake of PrintOS as well and reported 5,560 registered users at 2,400 companies, with 1,700 of them using PrintOS weekly.

At the event HP announced some improvements to PrintOS: notably PrintBeat has a mobile edition now, which allows monitoring and benchmarking press performance from mobile devices. High definition imaging was presented at the event again and although it is set to go into field testing later this year, with general availability planned for 2018. Available now are several new screening options that will help in photo printing and high contrast images.

While pink fluorescent ElectroInk was introduced half a year ago, fluorescent yellow just became available to Indigo users. Fluorescent green and orange were shown at the event and are currently being field tested. Another new ElectroInk just introduced is “Light Light Black”, which is especially intended for smooth gradations in photo printing, underscoring that HP Indigo remains committed to be the leader in specialty colour choice. At drupa 2016 HP showcased more than a dozen of other specialty ElectroInks to gauge user interest – at Dscoop Lyon HP Indigo previewed some of these inks again: thermochromic ink (changes colour depending on temperature), heat seal (the glue is activated at high temperature) and release inks (e.g. for scratch cards), which are apparently moving closer to commercialisation. Additionally metallic ElectroInk was shown again, which should garner the biggest interest, but is likely to get a launch not sooner than 2018.

HP Technology Fair - with new EletroInk types

HP Technology Fair – with new EletroInk types

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2016 InfoTrends, Inc.

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