By Melissa Donovan
RIPs are what drive a shop behind the scenes. Integral for many reasons, whether it be controlling color or ensuring that large files are properly rasterized, print service providers (PSPs) are certainly in their debt. While a RIP may often be an afterthought—purchased as a bundle with the printer—as production gets hopping, it doesn’t take long to realize just how important the right RIP is. We profile PSPs and their RIP experiences below.
Ease in Color
The signage and wayfinding department of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has been in existence since the service began in 1892. Today’s iteration, which includes large format printers and vinyl cutters, was implemented in 2000.
A four-person team serves as one of four in-house print production divisions for the CTA. With on demand large format printing, die cutting, lamination, vinyl cutting, and mounting services it designs and fabricates most of the wayfinding signage and maps found throughout Chicago, IL at rail stations and bus shelters.
Victor A. Ramirez, coordinator of graphics production, signage and wayfinding department, CTA, says color management is essential to the transit system, which relies on color for wayfinding and direction. “Digital prints need to match existing permanent signs in stations and bus stops.”
To control color, the shop has long been a supporter of Onyx Graphics, Inc. About 12 years ago it purchased ONYX PosterShop to drive its Mutoh America, Inc. Rockhopper printer. Today, ONYX Thrive and ONYX 11 are run on HP Inc. Latex 360, HP Designjet L25500, and HP Designjet Z6100 42- and 60-inch printers in a 1,200 square foot work space.
A number of features found in the ONYX RIP portfolio won over Ramirez. First and foremost, the timely support. Anytime there’s a production issue he’s emailed the support team and has a solution in a few hours. The Onyx team also helped the department configure its entire workflow and color control the printers. In addition, Ramirez leverages distributor resources like Advantage Sign & Graphic Solutions to learn more about color management and calibration at Onyx workshops.
Besides support, efficiency is also a factor. The processing speed of ONYX Thrive combined with the quick warm up features of the HP Latex 360 substantially minimizes waiting time, according to Ramirez. Other notable features include ease of use in editing profiles and a mini thumbnail function that replaces guesswork if a RIPped document has rotated incorrectly.
The finishing portion of the workflow benefits as well. Using the built-in CUT-Server, jobs are print and cut simultaneously. “All the printers need to run on the same RIP to be compatible on the same workflow, since we push contour cutting to our Aristo, Gerber Technology, and Graphtec America, Inc. cutting devices,” explains Ramirez.
CTA prints a lot of maps detailing the city’s bus routes, stations, and neighborhoods served, as well as informational signage on temporary vinyl. The ONYX RIPs manage color for each application.
“The great thing about ONYX RIPs, if you know what color space you are using in Adobe Acrobat, Illustrator, Photoshop, or CorelDRAW there is no guessing. We get perfect colors all the time. We only calibrate when introducing a new media or changing printheads,” says Ramirez.
Onyx’s products are ideal for the work CTA’s signage and wayfinding department print on a daily basis. While easy to use, they allow flexibility in controlling color output.
InkDOTS, based in Cypress, TX, offers graphic design, printing, and graphic installation of signs; banners; vehicle wraps; window graphics; stickers; canvas wraps; paper products like business cards, postcards, door hangers, and posters; and frames and stands.
The company was established in 2006 in the garage of Keith Nichols, owner, InkDOTS. 30 days after opening, he had three major customers that justified moving the fledging business into a 2,000 square foot space. Three years later it found itself in a 6,000 square foot facility with freeway visibility, a loading dock, and an outdoor storage/fenced area. Today it’s busting at the seams with five employees and as soon as its lease expires—five months from press time—it plans on finding another location in the 10,000 to 15,000 square foot range.
At the advent of the business, Nichols owned a Seiko printer—now part of OKI Data Americas. He hired someone to write four color profiles and then decided that it didn’t seem too difficult to do on his own with the right tools. About two years later, he purchased an X-Rite, Incorporated i1Pro to make his own color profiles and recently bought the automatic chart reader for i1 to further manage color.
On the RIP side, InkDOTS is outfitted with SA International’s (SAi’s) FlexiSIGN. “It’s very intuitive. I am a mechanically minded person and the interface makes complete sense to me. It does print and print/cut, so it gives us the best of both worlds. While simple, it is also very powerful and capable of doing more than we currently need,” explains Nichols.
The PSP recently added HP Scitex FB500 and FB750 printers complemented by two Colex Industries CNC cutters. While not undertaking any heavy-duty routing projects, most jobs use a knife blade on Sintra or foamboard.
With the addition of the cutters, InkDOTS constantly looks for ways to speed up the front end of the process, especially in regards to quickly setting up job files. FlexiSIGN helps with this.
The HP Scitex FB500 and FB750 are both networked to the SAi RIP, in addition to the two Colex cutters. InkDOTS also has 64- and 72-inch Seiko printers in house, both are USB printers and stay close to the RIP station so they remain on the same network as well. “SAi makes it easy to set up printers and cutters on the network. A lot of people have technicians that need to come in and do it, but we learned how to a long time ago and it’s very simple. When we upgraded to the HP Scitex FB750 for example, we needed to download the driver to the RIP and it was quick and easy,” says Nichols.
When it comes to color profiles, InkDOTS keeps it straightforward. It works with four main substrates—banner, photo paper, perforated window, and vinyl and relies on a single brand/model for each one. For example, for any job that is not a vehicle wrap and requires a vinyl, it uses Arlon Graphics, LLC DPF 4570GTX, a 4-mil calendared glossy vinyl. This Arlon media has a specific profile written for it and a test file is stored away with a picture and color swatch for easy comparison.
With the i1Pro and FlexiSIGN combined, InkDOTS is comfortable with its color profiles. And short of media being added due to a discontinued line, there is no need to calibrate for every job. This freedom allows the PSP to continue its focus on efficiency.
Vast Printer Portfolio
With a global presence, Graphic Systems, Inc. offers design, printing, installation, and fulfillment services for recognized retailers and brands like Best Buy, Select Comfort, Sunglass Hut, and Williams Sonoma. A team of over 90 staff members works out of a 58,000 square foot facility located in Minneapolis, MN.
The company began in 1965 and has since evolved into a “world-class provider of photographic and digital printing by investing in our experienced creative team and the industry’s leading technology,” according to Nik Prenevost, technology manager, Graphic Systems.
Part of its commitment is due to its continued use of Caldera’s RIP and workflow products. The PSP implemented the Caldera GrandRIP+ in 2006 when it purchased its first Durst Image Technology US LLC Rho 160. “We were looking for a solid RIP solution that offered fast processing as well as great color control,” shares Prenevost.
Today it uses Caldera’s InkPerformer and Print Standard Verifier tools in addition to the GrandRIP+. Part of the allure of Caldera’s portfolio is that it offers compatibility with a range of printers. In addition to the Rho 160, Graphic Systems also owns a Rho 1000, Rho 900, Rho 800, Rho 512, two Rho 500s, a Fujifilm Graphic Systems Acuity LED 1600, Inca Onset X1, two Epson Stylus Pro GS6000s, an Epson Stylus Pro 9900, and four Durst Lambdas. All of the printers are run on Caldera.
Graphic Systems produces point of purchase/point of sale for retail on a daily basis. These are demanding color situations and brand color repeatability is required often. While the Caldera RIP handles all of the company’s color management, sometimes customers need more specific color standards, which Prenevost says are tweaked using custom lab color charts and profiles. This is because of the challenges in matching spot colors and profiles across different substrates and printers.
“When researching RIPs we required a single solution for all of our needs. Caldera exceeds that by offering fast processing and automation options. The speed of the APPE engine along with EasyMEDIA for profile creation is what makes the Caldera RIP a fit for us. It works well in our high-volume environment,” explains Prenevost.
Based in Witham, Essex, U.K., Venture Banners began in January 2009 as a purchasing service that outsourced print. In 2012, it opened its own large format print facility servicing the trade. Banners are a large part of the PSP’s offerings and need to be output quickly so a job that consists of multiple pieces can be ready all at the same time. Combine this with the need to provide competitive pricing with room for markup and the trade printer is constantly looking for ways to save time and cut costs.
One way to manage the materials run on its EFI VUTEk GS3250 printers is to make the most of the time on press. Andy Webb, RIP manager, Venture Banners, says it takes up to 30 minutes for two men and a forklift to change some media rolls. This idles the press, creating downtime.
“We don’t want to waste any material, but we also want to make the most of the time and put everything that’s available on it before we change it out again,” he adds.
To remedy this, Venture Banners nests a lot of its jobs. Originally, its RIP had a difficult time handling some of the larger files. Sometimes the RIP would run overnight and in the morning the staff would come in to find that the large file hadn’t processed at all and then it would take two to three attempts to process it.
As business grew, the PSP knew it had to change something. One of its EFI VUTEk GS3250 printers was under EFI warranty, so it automatically upgraded to the EFI Fiery proServer 6 with FAST RIP technology. The difference between the old RIP and the new was night and day.
According Webb, the files RIP much faster, with fewer issues like dropping a banner out in a nested file. Previously large format banners took an hour to process, now it takes six minutes. As soon as the benefits were realized, Venture Banner immediately upgraded its second EFI VUTEk GS3250 to EFI Fiery proServer 6 as well.
Rely on RIPs
For some PSPs it’s all about color management, for others it’s a devotion to increasing efficiency. Features found in RIPs help achieve this, whether it’s the ability to run multiple devices from different hardware vendors or a solution that is part of a true end-to-end automated workflow. PSPs rely on RIPs to keep production running.
May2016, Digital Output