Inkjet RIPs

When it comes to the raster image processing (RIP) software inside of wide-format inkjet print devices, understanding the options, the technology, and the market opportunity is essential to making the right choice for your shop’s next equipment purchase. This year’s coverage looks at workflow integration trends shaping wide-format shops across North America and the world.

“We guide our customers based on their requirements and the type of work they’re producing,” says Mark Gallucci, manager of technology marketing at Agfa Graphics. “If they’re doing color-critical work, saving ganged jobs, or doing a lot of white ink/transparent projects, for example, some RIPs are more flexible while others are more rigid,” he said.

Gallucci draws prepress parallels from 10 or 15 years ago when he discusses current trends in wide-format RIPs: “We used to see more standalone RIPs driving image setters. Now we’re seeing a move toward more workflow efficiency,” he noted, adding that his firm supplies third party RIPs to Caldera, ONYX Graphics, and Wasatch Computer Technology. “This [efficiency] is essential for printers using flatbed devices and putting multiple products on the bed at the same time,” he continued. ErgoSoft software is featured in Agfa’s :Jeti line of UV inkjet printers, and Agfa also resells GMG America RIP products.

Gallucci cites GMG and EFI Fiery, which Agfa also supports, as examples of firms that have shifted to an approach featuring a network hub of RIPs using comprehensive workflow resources. “Instead of islands of front ends driving individual printers, these are full-featured suites that incorporate color management, file management, XML job submission, and other automated features,” he added.

EFI product marketing manager Chris Schowalter concurred with this trend toward full-blown workflow solutions. “The goal is to integrate smoothly and seamlessly by reducing touch points and error and increasing automation,” he said.


Fiery XF v. 5.0

The latest Fiery wide-format software helps PSPs achieve high quality prints while streamlining production workflows. This new version also enables integration with VUTEk and EFI wide-format printers, as well as with MIS/ERP systems. With the channel upgrade out for nearly three months already, “version 5 for our own products launched in late April,” Schowalter added. “We’re leading with integration, including JDF connectivity between the Fiery RIP, MIS [Pace and Digital Store Front], and VUTEk.”

Improvements have been made in the production space, Schowalter noted, including color tools from Fiery’s cut-toner side. “These have been tested for two years,” he said, “so there are no growing pains.”

One EFI customer, Category 5, improved its operations using the Fiery-to-EFI MIS/ERP integration features. “With all of the job data available at our fingertips, there is less time wasted tracking down answers,” said GM Greg Priede. “With the integration between the VUTEk printer, Fiery front end, and EFI MIS system, we see detailed job costing, and can calculate how long the printer ran versus how long the press operator took to complete the job. This allows us to address inefficiencies, reduce down time, and increase profit.”

The modular nature of the software allows customers to tailor the product to their current operation, paying only for the functionality they need now. More than 20 Fiery printer or software options allow customers to add additional capabilities as business needs evolve and budgets allow.


Winning RIPs

The Durst-Caldera partnership is now six years old. Last fall, Caldera powered four of five product-of-the-year output devices at the SGIA show. Driven by its RIP solutions were the Durst Rho P10 250, HP’s Scitex FB500, and Mutoh’s ValueJet 1638 and ValueJet 2638. “It is proof of how versatile and robust our software is that it is able to power wide-format machines of all sizes and a variety of technologies to success for these esteemed honors,” said Caldera CEO Joseph Mergui. Durst’s Rho P10 250 took home the award in the “FlatBed – Rigid Substrate UV >$200k MSRP” category for its “remarkable” versatility, productivity, and high-resolution output at 1000 dpi, matched by Caldera’s RIP solutions.

With wins in both the “Grand Format Roll-to-Roll Solvent and Latex Inks” and “Poster Size – Solvent/Latex Printers <96-inch” categories, Mutoh’s high-speed ValueJet series stole the show. Coupled with the streamlined performance of the Caldera RIP engine, the ValueJet 1638 and 2638 offer exceptionally efficient production, said Mutoh.


Thriving with ONYX

ONYX Thrive workflow software is scalable print production solution based on Adobe PDF Print Engine technology. ONYX Thrive software manages the wide-format print production workflow process offering PSPs predictable, high-quality printing results. Version 1.2.5, released this past January, includes support for the Windows 8 operating system, providing a seamless transition for PSPs upgrading to this OS or purchasing new hardware with Windows 8 already installed. Version 1.2.5 also adds functionality for white and specialty ink profiling, printing, and handling, including:

  • Color Management Engine updates for brighter, more vibrant images when printing with expanded ink gamuts for better output quality and ink utilization.
  • New support for native CMYKO and CMYKO+SS ink configurations found in the recently introduced Epson SureColor SC70600 and SC50600 series printers.
  • Improvements to Spot Channel Preview in the Layout Tool.
  • Improved various user interface elements for spot channels and expanded gamut ink usage such as an improved display for ink volume, which helps catch errors before printing and reduces the need for reprints. Additional improvements to the Media Manager user interface include an easier way to create new print modes to support printer modes that use white and specialty inks.
  • New ONYX HIVE Image (Hexagonal Ink Verification and Evaluation Swatch) feature enables users to evaluate many ink combinations simultaneously to fine tune print modes during the profile creation process.

This version update, along with support for a variety of new printer models, are essential for users who are looking to achieve accurate color with latest wide format print technologies. Support for the new Epson SureColor SC70600 and SC50600 series printers and new imagePROGRAF models from Canon is included, ONYX reported.


Another choice

Last June, Xanté announced that its iQueue 7 workflow software is available as a multi-user site license. Now all users within a network have access to advanced iQueue Ultimate features such as full job control, screening and halftoning controls, independent CMYK density controls, job cost estimation, and imposition for the Xanté Ilumina, PlateMaker, FilmMaker and ScreenWriter technology series. In the wide-format space, “iQueue drives all our digital output devices, including the PlateMaker 5 digital CTP,” confirmed Xanté graphic designer Steve Willis.

Along with the new multi-user site license capability came a significant enhancement to the Right-On spot color matching system. The technology can now not only accurately match spot colors within a document, but also spot color match images within a print file in virtually any file format. This feature gives customers the automated ability to spot color match logos in JPEG and other common image formats within a document. And users can easily convert images (JPEG, TIFF, etc.) to outlined EPS formats for use when creating documents with even greater spot color control. This enhancement now is a standard feature for iQueue Ultimate Workflow Software.

“Our customers are demanding greater automation and easier tools,” said Xanté founder and CEO Robert Ross. “New iQueue 7 is a major effort doing just that. Virtually anyone in the shop can now operate iQueue with very little training, bringing down cost and improving print quality.”

At drupa 2012 last May, Xanté demonstrated on a worldwide stage for the first time its Excelagraphix 4200, a 42-inch-wide inkjet printing system, bringing unrivaled speed (1,788 square feet per hour at 1600x1600 dpi), performance, and affordability for short-run and variable data color printing to packaging—including folding carton and corrugated cardboard. Xanté’s substrate support gives customers the ability to print indoor signage and design graphics through a simple print path height adjustment on the Excelagraphix 4200, which also earned a Best in Category “Must See ’Em” award in the Pressroom, Wide-Format category at Graph Expo 2012 last October.

iQueue possesses the most advanced color intelligence available for the Excelagraphix 4200, making it easy to manage multiple projects, make independent CMYK/density adjustments, match critical spot colors, and select the desired feed, media type, resolution, line screen, and dot shape. Users also can track press consumables, multiple run counts, and job cost from any user workstation.

When RIP shopping, “The tendency,” said Gallucci, “is for people to bring their ‘RIP-buster’ file and make decisions [based] on that. But the decision should be based on 80 percent of their work load” as opposed to that one nightmare file, he cautioned. Often, too, history and legacy equipment play a large role in the decision making process. “If someone has an Océ or a VUTEk, they may want to keep that RIP because their people have been trained on it,” he said.