Traffic has been brisk in the Prepress/Software/Workflow Pavilion at this year’s GRAPH EXPO. Perhaps that’s because in today’s printing company, almost nothing happens without first passing through the digital front end of the printing process.
What are some of the trends that are fueling this avid interest print service providers (PSP) have in all things digital? Prepress expert and instructor John Giles, technical director of CPrint International, offered his thoughts.
PDF files aren’t new, but PSPs are getting more of them from their customers. If PSPs expect to take advantage of the automation offered by the new digital presses and RIPs, they will have to become experts in PDF files. Every new piece of output equipment is optimized to work best with PDF files. The PDF workflows have built-in scripts that automatically correct common PDF file problems and allow printers to push work through the output machines faster.
One trend you can expect to see is for PSPs to require certified PDF files from their customers, especially if the files are printed offset in color. Larger commercial printers have trained their customers to provide certified PDF files, and smaller printers are benefiting, as customers make certified PDFs the standard.
VDP & W2P
Variable data printing, online ordering, and Web-to-print (W2P) solutions continue to be a hot topic with many printers. VDP is getting easier and the price for the software has dropped. Page layout programs such as InDesign offer built-in VDP solutions. Other vendors, such as PTI Marketing Technologies (Printable) (booth #744) provide low cost software add-ons to make handling variable data easy. Many of the RIP packages driving digital presses either include a VDP package or offer a low cost solution that can easily be added. VDP isn’t rocket science any more.
W2P services and online ordering are becoming ever more common in printing companies. Every printer-specific Web service, such as PrinterPresence by Firespring (booth #1064), offers document libraries that can be integrated with services that allow customers to add custom text to online templates. There is so much e-commerce on the Web that many PSPs are going all out to get a piece of the action.
A positive trend is that the number of GRAPH EXPO exhibitors who can provide Web-based services is growing. Plug-and-play solutions for almost every online print scenario are available at reasonable prices. Websites, W2P services, document libraries, online shopping carts and more can easily be assembled to make even a small print shop look bigger than it is.
The prepress department is rapidly changing. The prepress person is a more computer-centric employee, able to handle the technical aspects rather than the artistic design needs of the company. The new services PSPs will be adding to their product lines are computer-related rather than output-related. The PSP will need someone who understands how the equipment works and how to take advantage of the efficiencies in the software applications.
Services that have been sold by large commercial printers are now available to small printing companies at reasonable rates. Printers can outsource many of the highly technical services or buy packaged programs that don’t require high front end costs to get a service up and running. Any size printing company can offer sophisticated services without busting its budget.