Despite the economic downturn, we see UV printing technology growing as well. This is attributed to the flexibility of print applications, improved ink technology and to some degree, more environmentally friendly inks.
Also due to the economic downturn there is a consolidation trend in businesses and companies. For example, we see multi-site companies closing some shops and redirecting work, as well as smaller companies being purchased by larger companies, while others are simply cutting back on their work force.
As result, we see many print shops now focusing on efficiency and productivity, particularly with production managers trying to get the most out of the resources they have. So they are focusing on reducing the bottlenecks in their workflow that waste time and/or cause production errors.
Ashley Schaumburg, Marketing Coordinator, Wasatch Computer Technology:
RIP software companies are trying to do more by adding different features in their software, including job cost estimation and file editing. Still the most important feature that you need from your RIP is the ability to achieve the desired color while simplifying your workflow.
Randy Rickert, VP/GM of Mutoh America, Inc.:
The new focus is on efficiency and productivity given economic downturn. Reducing waste and production bottlenecks is key to ensure shops are efficient and productive. New printing opportunities such as vehicle wraps and textile-related print jobs seem to still have high demand.
Deborah Hutcheson, senior marketing manager, Commercial/Wide Format, Agfa Graphics, North America:
In the past 12 months, we have observed lots of improvements and refinement in print head technology, finishing hardware, and inks. First, print head technology improvements is exciting because of increased speed capability and immediate boosts to productivity. These improvements will make a major impact on turnaround times and sales.
Also we’re seeing advancements in finishing functionality within UV systems such as a spot varnish and white printing functionality.
Also, improvements with regards to latex inks are very interesting because their inherent flexibility allows printers to produce output on a wider variety of substrates; this will be a great help for printers looking to differentiate their product offerings and services.
What should shops be looking for when purchasing a RIP?
Kattner: They need to look for a scalable and flexible solution which is easy to use and extendable, ensuring that the investment grows with their business needs. Shops should be looking for products which are based on industry standards (e.g. Adobe CPSI and/or APPE), to ensure maximum compatibility with other systems.
Rickert: Shops should be looking for a RIP that provides consistent color across all print devices and offers scalability. The reliability of the RIP provider is also an important factor to consider when making your decision.
Derhak: Companies should be looking for RIP products that increase production efficiency and give them consistent color across all of their print devices. So the features to look for first are automation in the workflow, printer and cutter support, and integrated color management.
Scalability is also critical because RIPs are a significant investment for print shops. They need to look for a RIP platform that will grow with their business. This means RIP software that isn’t limited to a one or a few printer manufacturer’s devices, as well as flexibility to support different print applications such as flatbed, print-and-cut, textile, and white ink. Shops don’t start out using all of these print applications but as they grow, they can avoid having to switch RIPs by investing early in a RIP platform that can easily add new print applications.
Because RIP software is such an important investment for print shops, shops should look at the reliability of the RIP and the reliability of the RIP provider. Shops should expect good training and support from their RIP provider. Some questions shops should ask their dealer include:
- What training do I get with the RIP purchase?
- Does the RIP company offer web access that provides me with 24x7 access to knowledge that is regularly updated and the ability to log issues or questions?
- Does the RIP company have a call center, and how easy is it to get quality support from a technician?