Adjusting rendering of outlined text in Harlequin

By Martin Bailey, CTO, Global Graphics Software

In several sectors of the print market it is common practice to convert text to outlines upstream of a RIP, on the grounds that it’s then impossible for the wrong glyph to be printed. This is normal, for instance, in much of the label and packaging industry, especially when there is very robust regulation in place, such as in pharmaceuticals.

Every page description language defines “scan conversion” rules that specify which pixels should be marked when a graphic is painted onto a page; these build on the concept of “pixel touching”, specifying exactly when a vector shape counts as touching a pixel and therefore marking it.

When you’re using PDF (or PostScript, before that) the scan conversion rules are different for text specified using live fonts and for vector shapes. If you started with live text and then converted it to outlines then you have switched from using the text scan conversion rules to using the vector graphic rules. That has always meant that text converted to outlines tends to render slightly heavier than text using live fonts. And the smaller the text is, the more the weight difference becomes apparent.

FIG 1
FIG 1 – 2pt text in Times Roman showing various scan conversion rules.

In Fig 1 you can see this difference very clearly for very small Western text rendered at 2pt and 600dpi, still a common resolution for digital printers and presses. The top line shows text using live fonts, and the second line shows the PDF scan conversion rule for a vector fill. Note that at 2pt the RIP only has about 12 pixels for the height of an upper-case glyph.

In early 2018 we added a new scan conversion rule for vector fills alongside our pre-existing rules in the Harlequin RIP. The intention was to make it possible to emulate the much lighter output that Esko’s FlexRIPs produce. Unfortunately, it also tended to emulate the ability for very fine structures, especially fine horizontal strokes in small text, to disappear. You can see this in the third row of text in Fig 1.

This is obviously not an optimal solution, so we continued our development, and have now extended the original solution with what is called “dropout control”. This prevents very fine sections of a vector fill “dropping out” when they manage to fall on the page in such a way that they don’t cross the locations in the pixels that would trigger anything being marked. You can see the effect of this in the bottom line in Fig 1.

Light rendering with dropout control was delivered to our OEM partners in late 2018 under the name RenderAccurate.

Even this optimized output won’t exactly match the output of live fonts, because the fonts themselves often include hints to the rendering engine, designed to ensure maximum legibility and conformance to the font designer’s vision. These hints can, for instance, ensure that vertical stems are the same width in all glyphs, or that the curved base of a glyph will extend slightly below the baseline to make it visually balance with glyphs with flat bases that sit on the baseline. Those hints were discarded when the text was converted to an outline, and so can’t be used any more. But the new scan conversion algorithm certainly strikes a good balance between matching the weight of live fonts and maintaining legibility.

The effect is visible in very small text in Latin fonts, as shown in Fig 1, but the impact is often masked by the physical effects of printing. And Latin glyphs tend to be relatively simple, so that the human eye and brain are pretty good at filling in the missing segments without too much impact on legibility or comprehension.

On the other hand, Chinese, Japanese and Korean (CJK) fonts are often more complex, with the result that the effect is visible at larger point sizes. And the meaning can be obscured or altered much more easily if strokes are missing. Fig 2 illustrates the same effects on Japanese text at 3pt, rendered at 600dpi. At this size and resolution, the RIP has about 22 pixels for the height of each glyph.

FIG 2
FIG 2 – 3pt text in MS Mincho, showing, from top to bottom: live fonts; default rendering for outlined text; the new, lighter, outlined text; and lighter text with dropout control.

The glyphs shown in FIG 2 are complex compared to Western scripts, but any solution that will be used with CJK scripts must obviously also be proven with the most complex character shapes, such as the Kanji in FIG 3. Some of these have so many horizontal strokes that they simply cannot be rendered with fewer than 22 device pixels vertically and require more than that for reliable rendering. The sample in this figure is rendered at with around 27 pixels for the height of each glyph.

FIG 3
FIG 3 – More complex Kanji in KozGoPro-Regular, showing, from top to bottom: live fonts; default rendering for outlined text; and the new, lighter text with dropout control.

This article has deliberately used very small text sizes as examples, simply because the effects are easier to see. But the same issues arise at larger sizes as well, albeit more rarely.

On the other hand, it is precisely because the issue appears more rarely, and because the effects are less immediately noticeable, that makes the risk of dropping strokes so dangerous. It’s perfectly possible that an occasional missing stroke, perhaps in an unusually light font, may go unnoticed in process control. And that might result in a print that disappoints a brand owner, or even that fails a regulatory check, after the label has been applied or the carton converted and filled, or even after the product being shipped.

So, when a brand demands lighter rendering of pre-outlined fonts, make sure you’re safe by also using dropout control in your RIP!

New to inkjet? Come and see us at Hunkeler Innovationdays

Martin Bailey, CTO, Global Graphics Software
Martin Bailey, CTO, Global Graphics Software

If you are new to inkjet and are building your first press no doubt you’ll have many questions about the workflow and the Digital Front End.

In fact, you’re probably wondering how to scope out the functionality you need to create a DFE that is customised to exactly what your customers require. Among your concerns will be how you’re going to achieve the throughput you need to keep the press running at rated speed, especially when handling variable data. Or it might be handling special colours or achieving acceptable image quality that is keeping you awake at night.  And how to achieve this without increasing the bill of materials for your press?

At Hunkeler Innovationdays we’ll have a range of resources available to address just such questions with some real case study examples of how our OEM customers have solved the problems that were causing them a headache using our technology and the skills of our Technical Services team.

For instance, how, on a personalised run, when every label or page might be different, can you stop the press from falling idle whilst the RIP catches up?  Our ScreenPro™ technology helps Mark Andy cut processing time by 50% on the Mark Andy Digital Series HD, enabling fully variable (every label is different) continuous printing at high-speed and at high-quality.

How can you avoid streaking on the image if your substrate is racing under your printheads at speeds of up to 300m/min for aqueous and maybe 90m/min for UV.  Or mottling? The Mirror and Pearl Advanced Inkjet Screens™ available with ScreenPro have been developed specifically to address these problems.

During the lifetime of the press, how can you avoid variations in quality that look like banding because your printheads have worn or been replaced?  Take a look at what Ellerhold AG has achieved by deploying PrintFlat™.

The ScreenPro screening engine is one of the building blocks you’ll need for your inkjet press. Our Fundamentals components provide other functions that are essential to the workflow such as job management, soft proofing, and colour management.

Using a variety of white papers, print samples, video footage and case studies , we’ll be sharing our experience.  So, come along and meet the team:  that’s me, Jeremy Spencer, Justin Bailey and our colleague Jonathan Wilson from Meteor Inkjet if you want to chat about their printhead driver electronics that are endorsed by the world’s leading industrial inkjet printhead manufacturers.

 

Join us at Hunkeler Innovationdays 2019

 

Convert from PDF & XPS formats with Mako™

Product manager David Stevenson provides an update on the latest release of Mako:

We’ve just released Mako version 4.6 and I’m pleased to let you know that new in this release is support for PCL5 input, adding to the PCL/XL support already available. Aimed primarily at the enterprise print market, this capability makes it possible to convert to and from PDF & XPS formats and to render thumbnails for preview purposes.

This latest release will also be of interest to our prepress customers: we’ve  improved overall performance and added new, fast render-to-buffer capability, in monochrome and color.

Finally, there is also new and improved support for PDF-named destinations, document metadata and more.

Contact me to find out more: david.stevenson@globalgraphics.com

David Stevenson
David Stevenson,
Product Manager

 

Screening for the next-generation high-definition devices

In days gone by, almost every job was more or less 600 dpi in both directions. Now there is a drive to higher definition, with higher resolutions and smaller drop sizes.

So we’ve introduced a new feature in ScreenPro™ that allows the resolution of a job to be “upscaled” meaning that a RIP can still render at 600 dpi through an existing workflow and then ScreenPro can upscale the job to the printer resolution. The benefit is that you don’t need to change your existing workflow, can cut down on RIP time by RIPping at 600 dpi, but print on a 1200 dpi machine for increased definition.

There are various ways of achieving higher resolutions: use the new generation of print heads running at 1200 dpi, use multiple print bars, or use scanning head printers for multiple passes. Sometimes it really is increased resolution that is required and other times it is higher addressability and, for example with textile printing, sometimes you just need to be able to put down more ink in any given location.

Once manufacturers have achieved 1200 x 1200 dpi there are other problems to solve. There is four times as much data generated that needs to be passed through the workflow pipeline to the press compared to a 600 dpi data path. There are some applications where the higher addressability isn’t needed, and 600 dpi is ok, in this case you could run the press twice as fast and get twice the production if you ran it at 1200 x 600 dpi, or three times as fast at 1200 x 400 dpi.

To solve the problem of too much data slowing down processing times we have implemented resolution upscaling in the latest release of ScreenPro. The typical example is that we have an existing press and workflow to go with it at 600dpi. The RIP delivers data at this resolution. We then have a choice – to send it to the 600 dpi printer, in which case we screen as normal, or we send to the 1200 dpi machine.

In this simple case we use ScreenPro to double the number of dots it produces in both directions. For non-square resolutions we multiply in one direction only. Also for non-square resolutions we have to change the shape of the screens, a circular screen will be distorted by the non-square printer resolution so we have to correct for that up front.

What this means is that you can continue to RIP at 600 dpi and keep the same workflow right up to the last process of screening. You keep the same PC processor requirements, same network data transfer speeds. Only at the last stage use ScreenPro to upscale to your desired resolution.

This will be a really useful feature for many customers developing the next generation of high definition digital printers.

Hunkeler Innovationdays 2019
Join us at Hunkeler Innovationdays 2019 to learn more about the new features in ScreenPro.

ScreenPro™ with PrintFlat™ removes banding on large format posters

Watch our latest video showcasing our award-winning technology, ScreenPro with PrintFlat.

Global Graphics Software’s Technical Services team worked with Ellerhold AG, the leading poster printing house in Germany, to enhance the printing quality of its large-format posters. The result was 100% customer satisfaction and an increased market share of outdoor advertising products in digital printing.

Adrian Monk

Adrian Monk, Software Developer at Global Graphics Software

Meet Adrian, software developer at Global Graphics Software:

What is your background?

My career in software and computing started when my brother first bought me a computer to help with my homework. Since then, everything I’ve done has been geared towards helping me achieve my dream of writing software and working in a technical environment.

I have a BSc in computer science and over nine years of experience developing software in the engineering sector.


What were you doing before Global Graphics Software?

Before I started at Global Graphics, most of my working life was spent at a software company in Cambridge called AVEVA in their platform group, working on the fundamental frameworks that underpinned all of their products.


What’s the best thing about working at Global Graphics Software?

There are many great things about working at Global Graphics I’m not sure where to start, but to list just a few:

  • People – The people I work with on a day to day basis are all incredibly talented with a wide range of experiences. The company is small enough that we really do foster a family feel to the environment.
  • Interesting problems – We are on the bleeding edge of printing technology, trying to solve problems that can improve the output of our customers’ hardware by using software and science.
  • Environment – We have a modern, open plan office that really encourages collaboration. We get a great selection during our free breakfast and hot/cold drinks when we want them.
  • Freedom and trust – It’s clear that Global Graphics wants to empower its developers. We have say over all aspects of our work, from the technologies that we use to the processes we follow.

What has been your career path since joining Global Graphics Software?

Since I joined the team in March 2018, I have been the hands-on team lead and Scrum Master for the ScreenPro™ team. I am responsible for facilitating the Agile processes we follow and I work closely with stakeholders to ensure that the team always has what it needs to develop a great product. I even still write code, albeit less than I used to.

What is the environment like?

The environment is open, inviting, friendly and full of talented people. Global Graphics offers flexible working and work from home opportunities. We have a fully stocked kitchen and a full-size table tennis table.


What is the most exciting thing about your work?

We are solving big issues for our customers, improving the quality of their output to the point where we can physically see the difference.


What projects have you been involved with?

Since joining the team we have released several updates to the ScreenPro application and now we are looking at future projects, such as how we develop the PrintFlat™ technology.


Have you taken part in any of the social events?

I have been a member of The Shed project since its creation this year. This is a fantastic opportunity for staff to play around with technologies that we don’t normally use in our day-to-day roles. My project, for example, is an automated plant management system which uses a Raspberry Pi and various sensors to manage tasks like watering.


Have you taken advantage of any of the company benefits?

Since I’ve only been here a short time, the main benefit I’ve taken advantage of is the company’s Perkbox membership, which offers discounts on lots of things including cinema tickets which is extremely handy!


What keeps you here?

There are a number of things that keep me here, but mainly it’s the continuous flow of interesting problems to solve and the great team atmosphere we have built.

 

If you’re interested in joining Global Graphics Software visit our web page to find the latest vacancies: www.globalgraphics.com/careers

 

Leathon Lagerwall

Leathon Lagerwall

Meet Leathon, one of our software test engineers.

What is your background?

I spent my early childhood in South Africa and moved to the UK when I was ten. I’ve always had an interest in computing and graduated from the University of Bedfordshire with a 2:1 Computer Science degree. Soon after graduating I worked with companies such as Xerox and much later moved on to work for WorkSmart, where I worked as a graduate software test analyst.  After moving to Cambridge I found the perfect opportunity to work with Global Graphics Software, where I have been for the last two years.

What is the best thing about working at Global Graphics Software?

The people –  everyone is friendly, helpful and willing to share their knowledge.

What is the environment like?

It’s a well catered for environment. As a software test engineer I’m always well looked after when I need software or hardware.

What is the most exciting thing about your work?

Whatever the developers build, I get to break!

What projects have you been involved with?

I’ve work on both PDF Editor and ScreenPro™ where I’m the lead GUI tester and automator. I mainly test the front end of the application and ensure that it’s ready for the customer in appearance and functionality.

Have you taken advantage of any of the company benefits?

I use Perkbox a lot – especially for the free cinema tickets every month.

What keeps you here?

The people – and all the benefits the company offers.

 

If you’re interested in joining Global Graphics Software visit our web page to find the latest vacancies: www.globalgraphics.com/careers

Ben Gilbert

Ben Gilbert, Principal Software Engineer

We chatted to Ben Gilbert, principal engineer, about his work at Global Graphics Software:

How did you come to work at Global Graphics Software?

I joined Global Graphics Software following a 10-year career in the Royal Air Force. I had always been interested in computers and programming so I decided to make this my career upon leaving the service.

What has been your career path since joining Global Graphics Software?

I joined as a technical support engineer, providing first line support to our gDoc Application Platform (GAP) SDK customers. I also started developing sample code and automated test harnesses for the GAP team to use.

I then moved into a software development engineer in test role, where I became responsible for all test automation within the applications team across all products.

I became a full-time software developer on the applications team and worked on our GAP SDK as well as a short time working on our gDoc Core (now Mako) SDK.

I then moved to the Technical Services team, as a senior software engineer, where I was involved in many customer-driven projects – working directly with our customers’ engineering teams.

My current role as a principal engineer is to architect solutions for our customers and be responsible for design, implementation and delivery against tight deadlines.

Most recently, I have been working on our ScreenPro™ Direct solution. This began as a single customer project, with the goal of driving print data to hardware in real-time. It has now matured into a product being used by multiple customers.

How long have you worked here?

Five years.

What is the environment like?

Relaxed and informal. We are trusted to perform our work to the best of our ability, so there is little micro-management.

What is the most exciting thing about your work?

Helping our customers solve real-world problems and helping them ship their products faster. It’s a good feeling knowing that our customers are running code from Global Graphics Software, that is allowing them to achieve their vision and business goals.

What keeps you here?

The people I work with day to day, plus the freedom to make decisions (and learn from mistakes). Career progression is very good. If you make it known where you want to go, Global Graphics Software will try it’s best to get you there.

 

If you’re interested in joining Global Graphics Software visit our web page to find the latest vacancies: www.globalgraphics.com/careers

Matt Gosnell

Matt Gosnell, IT Director at Global Graphics Software

Here, Matt Gosnell, IT Director, tells us about life at Global Graphics Software:

What is your background?

I started my career in IT because my mother said I needed to get a job! I studied photographic and digital media at Anglia Ruskin University but had always had an interest in computers. As a child, my best friend’s dad was a computer engineer and playing games in the early 90’s was my childhood. By my late teens, I was building my own computers and was more interested in gaming and the digital side of my degree than being in the darkroom.

My first job in IT was at Bassingbourn Village College – I was the onsite technician who helped diagnose a variety of IT problems. It was a great start and I learnt a lot ‘on the job’. After a couple of years I moved on to an IT support company, where I would visit all kinds of companies for onsite assistance. Every day brought a new problem to solve. It was hard work but again I learnt a lot. In 2009 the excitement of a new environment each day wore off and I decided to make a jump to an internal IT department where I could make a difference long term, that’s when I joined Global Graphics Software.

What’s been your career path since joining Global Graphics Software?

I started working at a junior level in a team of four. After two years, I was promoted to manage the team. We were a much bigger company then and it was back in an era where you had to go to IT to get stuff done – it was a very busy department. I’ve since grown with the company, taking on more responsibility over the years and have been IT director for almost three years now.

Today, the company is very different; instead of having a single company to look after we also have our sister companies – so it’s a challenging environment. My goal is to try and achieve more consistency in IT among all the businesses.

What’s the best thing about working at Global Graphics Software?

For me the best thing about working here is that I’ve been given the opportunity to grow. I’ve always worked hard and strived to better myself and Global Graphics has encouraged me to do that. I’ve been on a fair few IT training courses over the years. Nowadays I try to go on a course once a year to keep my skills sharp.

What is the environment like?

It’s very friendly and has a flat management structure, i.e. we all sit amongst each other, whether management or not.

What is the most exciting thing about your work?

For me the most exciting thing is being at the forefront of IT technology. I have to keep abreast of technological change and how this can benefit the businesses that I represent.

Are there any big projects you’ve been involved with?

I’ve been involved in many big projects mainly because IT tends to be at the heart of the business. For example, we’ve moved offices, both in the UK and abroad, developed cloud and disaster recovery solutions, as well as integrated purchased business into the Global Graphics Group.

Do you take part in any social activities?

I’ve been part of the Global Graphics cycling group. We did quite a few London to Cambridge cycle rides. I also enjoy taking part in The Shed, a creative environment where we are free to work on projects to learn new skills. I am an active lead in my own project and am currently building a temperature-controlled fan array using an Ardunio Uno. As a result I’m learning all about electronics!

What keeps you here?

My job has changed so much over the last ten years and this has meant I’ve never had time to get bored. I’ve been given more responsibility and the opportunity to progress, and of course IT has changed so much, it has kept me on my toes. I’m given plenty of support, but I’m also trusted to make decisions on my own.

I have the freedom to develop as I’ve still got a lot to learn about directing a business in its goals. As the company grows my role grows – I have more to manage. My aim is to continue to grow. I’m in control of where we’re going and that’s a positive for me.

 

If you’re interested in joining Global Graphics Software visit our web page to find the latest vacancies: www.globalgraphics.com/careers

Questions from the Inkjet Conference, Düsseldorf

The Inkjet Conference Düsseldorf has been and gone for another year and we’re already looking ahead to the 2019 events that will be organised by ESMA.

This year delegates in the audience were able to submit questions via an app for the first time. I’m grateful to the IJC for sending me the questions that we either didn’t have time to cover after my presentation, or that occurred subsequently. So here they are with my responses:

Is it possible to increase the paper diversity with software by e.g.  eliminating paper related mottling?

Yes, we have yet to come across a media/ink combination ScreenPro™ will not work well with. The major artefact we correct for is mottle. This may mean you can print satisfactory results with ScreenPro on papers where the mottle was unacceptable previously, so increasing the diversity of papers that can be used.

It sounds like ScreenPro is very good at tuning a single machine. How do you also then match that output quality among several machines?

There are two technologies in ScreenPro, the screening core itself with the Advanced Inkjet Screens (AIS), and PrintFlat™ to correct for cross web banding. ScreenPro generally improves print quality and Mirror and Pearl screens (AIS) work in the majority of screening situations. PrintFlat, however, needs to be tuned to every press and if the press changes significantly over time, if a head is changed for example, it will have to be recalibrated. This calibration actually makes subsequent ink linearization and colour profiling more consistent between machines as you have removed the cross-web density fluctuations (which are machine specific) from the test charts used to generate these profiles.

“We haven’t found ink or substrate that we couldn’t print with.” Does this include functional materials, such as metals, wood, rubber? or is it limited to cmyk-like processes?

No – with ScreenPro we have only worked with CMYK-like process colours, i.e. print that is designed to be viewed with colour matching etc. ScreenPro is designed to improve image quality and appearance. I see no reason why ScreenPro would not work with functional materials but I would like to understand what problems it is trying to solve.

What is the main innovation of the screening software in terms of how it works as opposed to what it can do?

“How it works” encompasses placing the drops differently on the substrate in order to work around common inkjet artefacts. The innovation is therefore in the algorithms used to generate the screens.

Advanced Inkjet Screens are standard in the ScreenPro screening engine