Although some self-proclaimed tech geeks in the digital print realm may consider RIPing a near-mystical experience, rasters are not to be confused with the Rasta (Rastafarian) religious movement in Jamaica. Dreadlocks and Bob Marley reggae aside, raster image processing (RIP) or rasterization is the “smoke-and-mirrors” computerized process of taking images described in a vector graphics format, such as PostScript, PDF, or XPS files, and converting them into bitmap dots for high-resolution output on a digital printer/printing press.
The difference is that raster images are composed of pixels, while vector graphic files store images via means of mathematically defined curves and lines. The printing and prepress industries know raster graphics as contones (from continuous tones), and refer to vector graphics as line art.
In Wide-Format Imaging’s annual look at the digital RIP market, we offer a sampling of software solutions from 10 different workflow vendors:
At drupa 2012, the ninth version of Caldera’s RIP was shown. The release incorporates the Adobe PDF Print Engine (APPE) 2.5, which provides productivity upgrades in font handling, memory management, repeatable content, and speedier movement of files with transparency through the RIP.
Earlier this year, the French software firm joined forces with Alwan Color Expertise to create InkPerformer, an ink-saving module for the latest edition of the Caldera RIP (v9). The option harnesses Alwan’s profiling technology within the context of the RIP engine to provide an average 20 percent reduction in ink consumption across all types of wide-format production. At a time when raw materials costs and ink prices are rising dramatically, this saving allows all types of wide-format digital print houses to decrease expenditures. Its drupa RIP demo featured Apple iPads running the wide-format workflow program.
At the Graphics of the Americas show three months ago, visitors to Miami saw demos and printed samples in the Image Pro International booth that altered their expectations about inkjet proofing. Complicated color-management workflows and tedious ICC profiling are no longer necessary to achieve high-end print quality and accurate color proofs, according to ColorBurst. Its Overdrive 2.0 is a 64-bit RIP server for Mac OS X 10.6 and later. Version 2 takes full advantage of the multicore processors in today’s machines, so processing is significantly faster. It works its magic on top of a printer’s driver and RGB paper profiles to make accurate color automatic. Overdrive has separate “Input ICC Profile” settings for RGB, CMYK, and grayscale images. On the output side, Custom RGB ICC profiles are much faster to make than CMYK profiles used by other RIPs, ColorBurst contends, and can be made using profiling software that typically comes with spectrophotometers. Adobe black point compensation built-in, and output matches Photoshop exactly.
The PostScript/PDF/EPS RIP uses advances in color management and printing technology to deliver high-end color, accurate proofing, and Pantone matching for any inkjet printer. A new visual interface previews the selected file, and the Job List now contains scalable thumbnails. Plus, support for any paper is immediately available due to the universal nature of Overdrive’s color management. Proofing accuracy and text quality also are improved with v2.
The Canadian firm’s ImagePrint Version 9 is chock-full of page layout, image adjustment, and output technology, making it much more than a RIP. V9 helps to eliminate over-inking. It also prints the targets and builds the profile, ensuring the correct profile before printing. A dashboard view gets to printing fast.
“The printer driver has been completely rewritten for ImagePrint 9,” says user and beta tester Mark Dubovoy. “I can see a subtle but definitely noticeable improvement in the quality of my prints using version 9 versus version 8. I have also found that ImagePrint 9 spools faster to the printer, so I am getting better prints faster.”