Learning the RIP Ropes and Profiting from Profiles
by Thomas Franklin
Part 2 of a 4-part exclusive online series
One of the ironies of wide format printing is that the mammoth hardware sitting imposingly on the shop floor is but a timid mouse compared to the seemingly monstrous complexities of the box of software sitting on your desk.
"You can spend 90 percent of your time on 10 percent of your job," says Kirk Levis, director of education management, Ocť North America, Inc.
From file receipt, to color management and RIP software, the software side of the printing process is often the most daunting component of a userís workflow. This is why most printer vendors spend a significant bulk of their hands-on training instructing their customers on how to operate their RIP, maximize its capabilities, and how to tackle color management.
Producing high quality digital output is all about control, printer vendors say. The more variables you manage, the better the final print. Of course, itís impossible to control everything which is why itís important to ensure that, "youíre bringing good data to the printer," says Tony Miller, product manager, Technical Services, Roland DGA, Corp. "We have a closed loop system, but we canít control where files come from. The early hiccups usually start there."
Ensuring that files have enough resolution, and that the right colors and proper profiles in the RIP have been selected, is critical to ensuring high quality, color accurate output, Miller adds.
"We find that people do struggle with RIP software and we spend a lot of time on RIP training," says Shamez Asaria, assistant service manager/technical trainer, Gandinnovations Corp. "We approach the course as if people have never seen a RIP before, we cover a lot of basics."
One key, continues Asaria, is understanding how the RIP and your printer work together. "There are some files that some RIPs canít handle, and you need to know whatís going to work and what wonít."
A common mistake is simply choosing the wrong profile for certain media, Levis says. "You want to keep your profile names simple," and double check to be sure youíre using the right one, he adds.
"You have to define your workflow," Levis says. That includes both the physical (the layout of your equipment and how operators move between them) and the virtual (file preparation, preflight, embedding fonts, etc.).
"Weíve found that 150dpi is enough resolution, you donít need to make it that much higher," Levis notes. "For most customers, a canned profile is fine, you donít want to tweak what youíve been given."
Kodak offers basic RIP training for users of its Encad wide format printers, "teaching what impacts what," says Rod Eslinger, product application engineer/technical trainer, Graphics Communications Group, Kodak. A second tier of training will bring a Kodak agent to your door for more thorough RIP training, working closely with the end-user to solidify their workflow, Eslinger says.
Many users underestimate the capabilities of their RIP, says Frank Tueckmantel, director, VUTEk Training, Education, and Events Services, EFI, Inc. "They donít get enough productivity out of it or they donít get enough color," he says.
Most printer vendors offer basic RIP training when the printer is installed but they note that many customers need more in depth training Ė particularly those for whom high quality and color accuracy are critical components of their business. Some vendors, like Roland or EFI, offer their own RIP products and as such can provide training directly. Others, like HP or L&P Digital Technologies, Inc. will offer enough guidance to get users off the ground. For more in depth instruction, they recommend that their customers contact the RIP maker directly as software vendors frequently hold courses and seminars on their products.
"We offer RIP training, but we donít consider ourselves specialists," says Richard Codos, executive director, North American Development for L&P Digital Technologies.