Schaumburg: Ease-of-use and excellent quality color. Ease-of-use brings a lot of savings to go along with it. New employees will be able to produce prints without any extensive training time. This time savings results in increased efficiency and increased production.
Hutcheson: This is very important; shops should look for the following when purchasing a RIP: Ease of use, Color fidelity, Color profiles are critical and support from the manufacturer is also great option.
Oransky: The biggest danger for shops is overbuying, particularly for the first time purchaser of large-format equipment. Users need to take a hard look at their real needs and scale their purchases accordingly in all areas of their business.
In the case of hardware, tradeoffs generally have to be made between current needs and future growth opportunities. A machine that is too small won’t grow and will likely have to be replaced.
The good news is that most RIP vendors offer an upgrade path that makes it cost effective to start with a basic package and add capabilities as they are needed without fundamentally altering a workflow that has become comfortable to the user.
How are suppliers tailoring their products to fit these new trends in the marketplace?
Hutcheson: In response to demand, suppliers have introduced solutions that produce increased quality at fast speeds, thereby allowing shop owners to maintain peak production and all at competitive pricing. This includes Agfa’s high speed engines like the :Anapurna M2 and :Anapurna Mw (white functionality) and the :Anapurna M4f which is a great entry model.
Hanssens: As a RIP manufacturer we look to make the software evolve towards better serving the print provider. We need to keep up with the industry innovations and develop features in symbiosis to these new technologies (such as Latex, N-Color, embedded spectrophotometer).
Kattner: We are offering different base configurations which can be adjusted by adding product and output options. This is controlled by the licensing system to ensure that the customer doesn’t have to reinstall and reconfigure the product just because an option has been added.
Oransky: Specialization has become key, either with tailored packages or add-ons. Vendors aiming at the sign industry have made sure to address the need for precise spot color matching, large multi-panel layouts, and integrated workflows for printing and cutting. Roland Color is a good example of just such a feature. Roland VersaWorks also allows users of Roland cutters and printers to print and cut across two devices without reprocessing the file in a separate program.
Proofing RIP vendors will generally omit these kinds of features, but will include more tools for replicating the dot patterns and color space of a particular press. A RIP designed for dye sublimation will often have features specific to the textile industry, like step and repeat.
Derhak: ONYX Graphics recognizes that print shops still need improvements in their production workflow, especially around job preparation bottlenecks. So we recently introduced a new product, ONYX PrepEdge Pro software, to help shops reduce their lead times and production errors. It includes prep tools for all wide-format job preparation types as well as a full PDF editor.
Also, some RIP vendors are introducing job costing enhancement to their RIPs to help shops track print costs. We’ve had this feature for several years and see shops using it more this year in economic hard times. Shops now want to track all of their production costs and the RIP is the ideal place to do it because it has a view into everything happening in production.
For example, we will introduce some enhancements to our production analysis tool later this year that track production time, finishing and other production cost trends.
Rickert: We are focused on enabling new print applications such as vehicle wraps; educating users on how to utilize RIP software to complete these printing tasks is key. Mutoh is an open source platform that gives user’s more choices to optimize their workflow and productivity, all the major RIP companies support Mutoh products.
This allows the end user to add Mutoh printers to their existing workflows, or choose a RIP that best fits their own needs.