Beyond the Bond
All Encompassing RIPs
By Melissa Donovan
Traditional raster image processors (RIPs) are responsible for the efficient, automated workflow that exists between computer and printer. The communication breakdown results in a print that matches what appears on screen. Today’s RIP solutions go beyond that computer and printer bond—adding features such as color management, cutting options, file editing, proofing, and job estimating for an end-to-end solution.
Here, we profile standout features and the user friendliness of RIPs available to large format print service providers (PSPs). Overwhelmingly, many PSPs turn to a fully encompassing solution to manage the entire workflow.
Both CADlink Technology Corporation’s SignLab and Digital Factory products utilize the Color-Logic Inc. color management engine to ensure color accuracy. In addition, the solutions support spot color and specialty ink.
Caldera’s RIP solution is designed to sit in the middle of the production process, between production management workflow, Web to print, and digital signage. The newest model uses the latest version of the Adobe Systems Incorporated print engine, APPE 2.5.
“Getting a PDF in one hand, dynamic content in the other, and mixing both with vibrant designs and concepts will soon be the norm for most printers. What will be key is how to manage, interact, mix, and broadcast it all,” explain Sebastien Hanssens, VP marketing and Joseph Mergui, CEO, Caldera.
ColorBurst Systems’ Overdrive 2.0 was recently redesigned, making it one of the easiest professional color RIP solutions available with drag and drop features, ICC color management, and workflow setup. It takes advantage of multi-core processors to make processing even faster than before.
“Overdrive offers low cost of ownership and ease of support. Adding new workflows and environments takes seconds versus hours,” says Sal Passanisi, director of marketing and sales, ColorBurst.
ColorByte Software offers ImagePrint 9, which utilizes a built-in profile delivery system, Profile Valet. It keeps profiles in place for all papers supported in a workflow. If one is missing, the program retrieves it from ColorByte and automatically sets the print parameters.
“ImagePrint 9 features scaling technology. It also features a sophisticated graphic layout and a new paper saving feature called shuffle,” explains John Pannozzo, president, ColorByte.
EFI’s two main RIP product lines include Colorproof XF and eXpress for high-end proofing and Fiery XF and Fiery XF proServer for the inkjet production market. In particular, Fiery XF offers customers advanced tools for its VUTEk printers. Color Verifier allows users to verify print results with a regular static control strip. Dynamic Wedge customizes a color control strip to only use relevant colors, including spot. As a result the data automatically color corrects output.
PosterJet 8 from Eisfield Datentechnik GmbH & Co. KG, Köln offers an intuitive user interface, bi-directional printer information, and a sophisticated error management system. The RIP commences printing in seven seconds to speed up production. “PosterJet’s interface is designed with customer experience and user needs at the top of the agenda,” shares Kim Laury, owner, DK Graphics & Printer Supplies. The company is a major distributor of Eisfield PosterJet in the U.S.
The ErgoSoft AG product line consists of three versions tailored to the photographic, digital graphic, and digital textile industries. The TexPrint version is geared toward digital textile production and includes features designed to facilitate textile-specific tasks. Standout features in this version are advanced Step and Repeat, Print without a Gap, and Shrinkage Correction functions. Using Print without a Gap, a single swatch of a stepped and repeated image is RIPped and reprinted without a gap to the desired job dimension. Shrinkage Correction allows a value to be set based on post-processing policies for a given job.
Four Pees NV’s PrintFactory RIP is a production suite option. The tool allows for the separation between job preparation and production, namely when files require manual intervention. When running smoothly, the RIP prints jobs while processed.
Fujifilm North America Corporation promotes the Fujifilm Editions of ColorGATE Digital Output Solutions GmbH RIPs. Each solution allows for a unified workflow where all printers are controlled by one central RIP. In addition, the tool analyzes ink and substrate consumption, cost for each job, and produces cost reports for accurate estimating.
“Ink optimization could help save as much as 15 to 20 percent on your ink consumption and actually produce more consistent color,” advises Jeffrey D. Nelson, marketing manager – software solutions, Fujifilm.
More than a RIP, GMG’s ProductionSuite is a modular system comprising of Editor, RIP, SmartProfiler, and PrintStation. Of note is its integration with printing and cutting. Individual print jobs can be combined to ensure optimum material use and cutting sequences. Additional functions include Industrial Cutting, True Shape Nesting, Screen, and Variable Data Printing.
“The PDF editor, modeled after document processing applications, offers a recognizable and easy-to-use graphical interface. RIPping is done in the background, no operator interaction required,” says Marc Welch, director of strategic accounts, GMG Americas.
ONYX Graphics, Inc. recently released its ONYX Thrive workflow software. “It is designed for PSPs looking to invest in workflow software to manage their print production environment, rather than purchase separate RIP products. The solution is based on Adobe PDF Print Engine technology,” shares Danielle Mattiussi, director of product marketing, ONYX. The Adobe PDF Print Engine natively renders PDF digital master files generated by any design application, maintaining fidelity to the creative intent across the entire workflow.
Roland DGA Corporation’s dedicated VersaWorks is offered free of charge on every Roland inkjet device. It supports both printer/cutters and cutters in the portfolio with contour cutting and perf-cutting options. In addition, an advanced paneling feature automatically adjusts additional panels to rotate 180 degrees to ensure seamless matches.
According to Steven Tu, color workflow specialist, Roland DGA Corporation, a unique feature is the solution’s ability to organize jobs into two queues. “For example, the user sets up queue A for banner work and queue B for signs; or organizes jobs by customer, deadline, or any other attribute. Using this feature, the user groups jobs and prints them in order of priority.” VersaWorks users can also take advantage of variable data printing.
SA International, Inc. (SAi) offers PixelBlaster and the Flexi family of RIPs. PixelBlaster is a complete solution in that designers can utilize preflight and job preparation tools, then files are processed and placed into queue stations where job nesting and rotating is performed.
In both cases—PixelBlaster and Flexi—SAi offers a one-stop solution. “In this rapidly changing market users must offer versatility to customers. Our software is modular and users pay for what they need and then add extra items later as they grow,” says Stephanie Stamm, marketing manager, SAi.
Flexi is offered in three RIP levels—SIGN-PRO, Print Server, and Print. It is well known for its simplified print-and-cut workflow.
Shiraz Software’s RIP solutions cater to a range of market segments within the large format print market—from the smallest setup to the largest and most demanding production sites.
VALLOY Incorporation’s TOPAZ RIP products offer a quick profiling option without using a spectrophotometer. Post-RIP color correction is available to ensure accurate results, as well as a post-RIP layer printing option for select output channels.
“TOPAZ RIP’s unique dual-mode interface gives full access to setting parameters for both layout and job management. Wizard-based printer installation and color management provides a quick and foolproof workflow,” shares Juan Kim, CEO, VALLOY.
Wasatch Computer Technology’s SoftRIP is equipped with a 16-bit color pipeline that improves image quality while maintaining color faithful to the original image. Its exclusive Precision Stochastic Screens halftone method produces high-quality output with smooth gradients at fast RIP speeds. Wasatch Tracer allows users to create contour cut paths directly within SoftRIP and the Wasatch Cost Estimator provides an accurate estimate of every job a user prints.
“Xitron stands out by offering affordable priced, high-performance workflow systems that drive hundreds of different devices,” explains Bill Owens, director of marketing, Xitron. This includes both inkjet and laser printers, film imagesetters, platesetters, production printers, and direct imaging presses.
Most print shops host a portfolio of hardware from multiple vendors. Each device must output matching graphics. Luckily, RIPs are created to facilitate this issue and work with many printers and cutters.
CADlink products are supported by a job management queue system referred to as Visual Production Manager. The program offers simultaneous printer and print queue support.
Caldera’s RIP is designed for multiple users and printers and finishing devices because it is built on a client server architecture.
EFI’s Fiery XF also operates on client server architecture, which allows users to access the server from a Mac or PC. Multiple printers are supported and can be added on a per-driver basis with an additional load balancing option.
Eisfield PosterJet SimuPrint technology enables users to print on up to five large format printers simultaneously while InstantPrint guarantees printing to commence within seconds, regardless of file size, file format, or PostScript complexity.
“Capitalizing on fast processing and powered by the multi-core technology of computer workstations, the suite of ErgoSoft RIPs are highly proficient at driving multiple printers all at once. At the center of this functionality is the ability to specify the core to be used for individual RIP servers, allocating enough memory to process data at fast speeds,” explains Robert Nute, director of business development, North America, ErgoSoft.
The Fujifilm Editions of ColorGATE support over 750 different printers and help manage and control them from proof to print to cut.
GMG’s ProductionSuite is built on a scalable architecture, providing enough horsepower for a number of printers.
Designed for multiple users and printers, ONYX Thrive focuses beyond the shop with users on the go using its Thrive Production Manager browser-based user interface. PSPs can submit, monitor, control, and view jobs and devices from computers or mobile devices.
Roland VersaWorks supports multiple Roland devices to expedite production for busy shops. “Users set up a VersaWorks RIP station and connect multiple client stations to it to accommodate a team of designers. These capabilities support the requirements of growing businesses who are adding staff as well as equipment,” says Tu.
SAi’s Flexi line of RIPs support as many device setups as needed and RIPs up to three jobs all at once.
Multiple Shiraz client applications are installed on both Mac and Windows on a network and drive multiple printers. Jobs are managed centrally for all print queues and then batched and nested together based on currently loaded media.
“The server automatically and intelligently controls and manages all active jobs including holding jobs not matching loaded media type or size or re-nesting jobs based on the new roll size. All incoming jobs are tracked through the workflow and information gathered for costing and other purposes,” adds Ramin Shahbazi, business development director, Shiraz.
VALLOY’s TOPAZ RIP Business Edition works with four printers simultaneously.
Wasatch SoftRIP is designed to support multiple users working on multiple printers. It can drive up to four printers at the same time.
RIPs aren’t necessarily designed with the large format printer in mind. Features found on solutions that are enticing to these types of print shops include automation, nesting and tiling functions, and color management tools. The inherent attraction is in the solution’s ability to save the print provider time.
Many facets of the RIP process provide automation. According to Tom Peire, CEO, Four Pees, the automation found in its PrintFactory RIP is credited to simultaneous rendering and printing, the use of standard and customized templates, and added cut marks for quick and accurate finishing.
JDF integration plays a large part in an efficient workflow. “Its integration into management information systems and support printers allows for the reduction of touch points and full tracking of consumables upstream,” says Chris Schowalter, product marketing manager, EFI. Fiery XF’s JDF integration capabilities makes it easy to work with other EFI products such as Pace and Digital StoreFront.
Hanssens and Mergui admit it is difficult to focus on just one standout component that automates the process, as the most important thing is collaboration. One notable feature in the Caldera RIP V9 edition is InkPerformer, created in partnership with Alwan. It calculates new levels of black ink to reduce the use of other inks while faithfully reproducing the hues intended from the original file. It allows print providers to take control of ink costs.
Nesting and Tiling
If a RIP automatically tiles and nests multiple images it saves time and reduces waste. Utilizing as little white space as possible, a smart tool places multiple graphics on the specified substrate and sends to print. It eliminates the user from measuring out and inaccurately placing multiple graphics on a file.
Michael Chramtchenko, director of marketing, CADlink, explains that features particularly helpful to the wide and grand format printer include enhanced processing speeds, automatic and manual job tiling, auto nesting, printing and pending job organization, hot folder support, and a decal mode to RIP once and print many.
“PixelBlaster caters directly to the wide and grand format and high-end production shops by offering tools that reduce the amount of time spent doing tedious, repetitive design work,” adds Stamm.
A Super Tile Tool allows users to quickly tile jobs and also create a template. In the design or PB Central module, PixelBlaster allows users to include grommets, bleeds, and folds in a few clicks. Similarly, SAi’s Flexi offers True Shape Nesting to automatically arrange different geometrical shapes together to use the least amount of material possible, ideal for the eco-conscious.
Shiraz RIPs offer tiling that allow users to create output jobs of any size and design—quickly and accurately.
A print buyer’s number one concern is color. PSPs look to RIPs to safeguard the color process.
ColorBurst RIPs work in RGB from start to finish, ensuring the intended color is seen in the final print. This is done with the help of built-in Adobe black point compensation, so output matches Adobe Photoshop exactly. Additionally, ColorBurst’s AutoSpot technology improves the accuracy of Pantone colors.
The ErgoSoft linearization process is intuitive. Establishing a predictable base through linearization is an effective preventative measure that reduces color quality issues during production. The ErgoSoft linearization module reduces the potential for error by integrating auto controls, while simultaneously allowing the more advanced user to manually set ink limit restrictions and the desired tonal responses needed to achieve consistently reproducible color.
Device Synchronization in the Fujifilm Editions of ColorGATE allows the user to split a job between two devices—for example two wide format printers—and match the color between both very accurately.
ONYX Thrive workflow software features ONYX Profile Generator for color profiling. The software includes accurate, automatic Pantone, Ral, and HKS spot color matching capabilities, plus white and spot ink tools are available.
Roland VersaWorks’ spot color matching ability is widely discussed among wide and large format users. The program features its own spot color library, featuring over 1,500 traditional and metallic colors matchable to swatch charts and books alike.
The Color Transforms screen in Wasatch SoftRIP straightens out profiles, halftones, and calibrations to show users how their color goes from file to printed page. Designed to be user friendly, as Sarah Burton, marketing coordinator, Wasatch says, “a user doesn’t need to be an expert to print like one.”
PSPs look to automate processes in a variety of ways. One of which is through a RIP offering multiple features that help cut down on wasted time via human error. While not every solution provides endless features, all help to streamline a print shop’s communication between computer and printer. The final result is a printed graphic that matches what was originally viewed on a computer screen or hard proof.
Jun2012, Digital Output