Getting the color right on a job is crucial for any wide-format output provider. The emergence of RIPs and color management systems has allowed for great strides in this area. Color management, RIP software, and hardware let print providers manage their color printing by creating profiles specific to their particular printers, inks, and printed media, as well as any post-processing work that might have an impact on the color. Users can then select a profile that will ensure the colors in the digitally printed output match those in the original design. Choosing the right RIP can be the most critical part of putting together an effective workflow solution. Most wide-format printer manufacturers provide some sort of printer driver or rudimentary onboard RIP to make this conversion. Most users need more than this in order to achieve anything like optimal results from their printer.
To help with RIP questions, WFI polled a number of RIP software suppliers and asked them about software trends and advice on selecting a RIP.
WFI has also compiled a RIP resource chart to help you with your purchasing decisions, outlining all of the available RIPs on the market, following this feature.
What are the big trends in this marketplace?
Sebastien Hanssens, vice president of marketing, Caldera Graphics:
Shops need to have modular and productive software. Printers have greatly improved their color output, so print suppliers are less overwhelmed by color management. In these times of crisis people are looking to improve productivity, reduce waste, and improve margins; the key objective is profitability. This means concentrating better organization and processes, which can be achieved with software that focuses on media and ink optimization, all while increasing job production speed (not just the printing, but the whole workflow).
Andrew Oransky, director of Product Management at Roland DGA Corp.:
RIP vendors are trying to differentiate themselves by offering features that go beyond the basics of color correction and layout options. Spot color matching systems, variable data, and the ability to manage multiple devices from a single workstation are becoming more common. I am also starting to see more tools that will help users to run their businesses more effectively. These include preflight tools that automate file preparation, as well as specific capabilities that address the needs of a particular market. There are RIPs that are particularly well suited to proofing, a different set of RIPs optimized for dye sublimation, and RIPs that are designed for photo or fine art applications. While most of these packages can be pressed into service in almost any industry, we find suppliers increasingly aligning themselves with a particular application or group of users.
Alexander Kattner, product manager, EFI:
A big trend in the industry is definitely for flexible and modular solutions which provide accurate and consistent color output and which are based on standards. Users want to secure their work and are looking for solutions which are easy to integrate into existing environments, especially via JDF. The market is moving more and more in the direction of standardization, both on the input and output side. Many customers who have been happy with “just color” are now facing different requests—inkjet produced prints and products need to be consistent with print products manufactured using different technology.
Dean Derhak, product director, ONYX Graphics, Inc.:
Overall, demand for print jobs has slowed with the economic downturn, forcing print providers to find new ways to maintain their business level or cut their costs. Shops are also exploring new print opportunities such as vehicle wraps and textile-based products such as soft signage, because demand for them appears to remain high.
Along with adding new print applications, companies have turned to outsourcing more print jobs. This enables the print provider to expand its product offering quickly without having to immediately purchase new hardware.