Questions from the Inkjet Conference, Duesseldorf

The Inkjet Conference Duesseldorf 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

 

Simple VDP support

VDP is a topic that has the potential to get people very excited. We are no exception. For instance we were delighted when Mark Andy told us that our technology reduces process and RIP times on the Digital Series HD by 50% even with full color, every-page-different.

Confident of the benefits print shops would experience if they could take on higher premium personalised jobs, we made sure from the early days, that our technology would be a) able to handle variable data in “regular” flavour PDFs by intelligent rendering b) be PDF/VT compliant (since IPEX 2010) and capable of high-speeds without sacrificing quality. And now there’s a new development that we’ve introduced this year with the launch of Version 12 of the Harlequin Host Renderer in April 2018.

What about when your VDP workflow doesn’t really benefit from PDF/VT but needs a lighter weight solution for adding text, graphics and barcodes?
Harlequin Host Renderer 12 now supports Dynamic Overlays for these use cases. Some applications such as packaging, labels and industrial print, require a simple form of VDP support. This might be where a single background page is combined with overlay graphics that are selected on the basis of a data file supplied in a format like CSV. Serial and batch codes can be added using dynamic counters without writing values to a CSV first. Support has been added to apply overlays on top of a single page PDF file to add simple serial numbers on labels or QR codes for personalized URLs, postal barcodes and addresses on envelopes.

Secure tickets

This secure ticket is generated with in-RIP bar-code support where data is read dynamically from a CSV file.

The example shows:

  •  A complex guilloche pattern in the background
  • Two lines of micro text identifying the recipient by name
  • A QR Code encoding a personalized URL (PURL)
  • The Global Graphics ‘g’ is painted in the centre of the QR Code
  • A six-character code in which each character is drawn with one of six different colours

Folding cartons

The background for this image comprises three folding cartons using nested imposition.

The overlay includes:

  • The first name of the recipient in large white text with a silver border
  • The full name of the recipient together with their city and state
  • A line of microtext showing their full name repeated to fill the space available
  • A QR Code recording a personalized URL (PURL), with a Global Graphics logo placed over the centre of it
  • The flag for the state of the recipient

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesley Whitfield

Lesley Whitfield, software developer at Global Graphics Software

We chatted to Lesley Whitfield, software developer in our Wilmslow office, about her work at Global Graphics Software:

What is your background?

I was always interested in maths and science then discovered engineering at university, eventually ending up with an Open University degree in maths and electronics.

How did you come to work at Global Graphics Software?

I was looking for a new challenge after working on a smaller product.  Although I was also offered the opportunity at the time to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, I chose the more technically interesting job at Global Graphics Software.

What were you doing before?

A whole range of jobs from stress analysis in the aerospace sector, instrument safety, embedded software for smart meters, to software for direct mail.  Before joining Global Graphics Software 18 years ago I tended to move on to something new every couple of years.

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

Working in a highly motivated and skilled team that is serious about doing the best possible job.

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

I joined as a software developer helping out with our color management technology including some of the more mathematical aspects. Later I wrote the color interpretation code for XPS (one of the Page Description Languages we support), then was lucky enough to join the PCL team from the start. This allowed me to play a significant part in interpreting the specification and designing the way the PDL code interacts with our underlying core technology, which in turn was very useful when I was part of the team trying to speed it up. I have swapped back and forth between a couple of teams, tending to specialize in one or two main areas but helping out where required including, unusually, a stint as developer in support. The last six months I have been excited to work on our Harlequin VariData solution where it is possible to make a very big difference to performance and hence the customer experience.

What is the environment like? 

Hardworking, friendly and helpful. Ideas are discussed on their merits so everyone has a chance to contribute. Developers have a good relationship with QA who take an active part in our scrums, and also with support. Working hours are fairly flexible and evenings and weekends are respected. The office can be a little quiet sometimes, but everyone is willing to discuss technical issues and most people are up for a chat in the kitchen. We are small enough to get to know people across the company. There are various social events throughout the year.

What is the most exciting thing about your work?

Probably knowing that the software I’m writing today will soon be allowing huge presses all over the world to operate accurately and at high speed.

What projects have you been involved with?

The most exciting project I was involved with was when we had six months to make our embedded RIP go three times faster across a wide range of jobs.  This was incredibly challenging but as a team we were determined to do it, and thanks to our ingenuity and diverse skill set we succeeded!

Have you taken advantage of any of the company benefits?

Yes, I am a keen sailor and volunteer as sea staff with Ocean Youth Trust Scotland. I normally do at least a week each year and put my paid charity day towards that (http://oytscotland.org.uk/).

In addition, I always take up the opportunity of a week’s unpaid leave in addition to my paid holiday.

Global Graphics Software has also supported me over the years in achieving my personal goals. I have been studying Japanese as a hobby with Manchester University since 2015, and last year I was able to spend two months working in our Tokyo office which greatly benefited my Japanese. I just got my final exam results and am very pleased to say I passed!

What keeps you here?

Working here gives me an opportunity to work on the type of problems that I enjoy solving, with friendly colleagues who are highly motivated to do a great job. I feel my work is appreciated and relied on. Recently Global Graphics Software has been getting into a variety of new areas such as multi-level screening and inkjet technologies, and that can only mean more opportunities in the future.

 

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

 

 

ScreenPro™ makes a real impact on those hard-to-solve killer jobs

By Tom Mooney, product manager for Global Graphics Software

I’ve just returned from a road trip in the US to inkjet press manufacturers who are all interested in using ScreenPro.

The meetings have gone in a very similar manner with the opening line: “We have a print shop that wants to print this job, but take a look at this area.” They point to an area of the image, usually in the shadows, and it is either a muddy brown mess or crusty and flaky, the typical ‘orange peel’ effect. We all agree the print is unacceptable and cannot be sold, so we discuss what can be done.

Firstly, we look at the ink limitation, but this kills the color saturation in the rest of the print. We look at color management and under color removal, but this only moves the problem to a different area on the image.

Then we see what ScreenPro can do.

We try our Advanced Inkjet Screens™ and use Pearl screen on the muddy mess and Mirror on the orange peel. This does the trick and makes the prints acceptable, so the print shop can sell that print job.

As long as this quality threshold is met the customer is happy. This quality is achieved by a combination of hardware, media and ink and software. Color management is only part of the story with the software – ScreenPro makes a real impact on those hard-to-solve killer jobs.

ScreenPro’s Advanced Inkjet Screens solve two common problems: Mirror avoids orange peel mottle on non-absorbent, poorly wettable substrates and Pearl counteracts streaking on reasonably absorbent and/or wettable substrates
ScreenPro’s Advanced Inkjet Screens solve two common problems: Mirror avoids orange peel mottle on non-absorbent, poorly wettable substrates and Pearl counteracts streaking on reasonably absorbent and/or wettable substrates

 

 

 

What’s new in Harlequin Version 12?

Yesterday saw the launch of the latest version of the Harlequin RIP®. It’s the first major PDF RIP for production printing to offer compatibility with the PDF 2.0 standard and is packed with features for high-speed digital printing, including Advanced Inkjet Screens™ that improve output quality, further additions for labels and packaging applications, and new features for wide format and envelope printing.

Check out the video, where Global Graphics CTO Martin Bailey introduces Version 12 and highlights compatibility with PDF 2.0, dynamic overlays and In-RIP bar code generation:

You’ll also find more information on our website: https://www.globalgraphics.com/globalgraphics-software/products/harlequin-host-renderer-sdk

 

A problem solved

They say a problem shared is a problem halved. Well, two weeks on from our launch of our Advanced Inkjet Screens it’s been gratifying to see how much the discussion of inkjet output quality has resonated among the press vendor community.

Advanced Inkjet Screens are standard in the ScreenPro screening engine

Just in case you missed it, we’ve introduced a set of screens that mitigate the most common artifacts that occur in inkjet printing, particularly in single-pass inkjet but also in scanning heads. Those of you who’ve attended Martin Bailey’s presentations at the InkJet Conference ( The IJC) will know that we’ve been building up to making these screens available for some time. And we’ve worked with a range of industry partners who’ve approached us for help because they’ve struggled to resolve problems with streaking and orange peel effect on their own.

Coalescence on inkjet is directional and leads to visible streaks.

Well, now Advanced Inkjet Screens are available as standard screens that are applied by our ScreenPro screening engine. They can be used in any workflow with any RIP that allows access to unscreened raster data, so that’s any Adobe PDF RIP including Esko. Vendors can replace their existing screening engine with ScreenPro to immediately benefit from improved quality, not to mention the high data rates achievable. We’ve seen huge improvements in labels and packaging workflows. Advanced Inkjet Screens are effective with all the major inkjet printheads and combinations of electronics. They work at any device resolution with any ink technology.

Why does a halftone in software work so well? Halftones create an optical illusion depending on how you place the dots. Streaking or graining on both wettable and non-absorbent substrates can be corrected. Why does this work in software so well? Halftoning controls precisely where you place the dots. It just goes to show that the assumption that everything needs to be fixed in hardware is false. We’ve published a white paper if you’re interested in finding out more.

The Mirror screen mitigates the orange peel effect common when printing onto tin cans, plastics, or flexible packaging

Martin Bailey appointed co-chair of PDF Technical Working Group

Congratulations to our very own Martin Bailey and to Peter Wyatt, the general manager of CiSRA, for being nominated co-chairs of the PDF Technical Working Group (TWG) within the PDF Competence Centre branch of the PDF Association. https://www.pdfa.org/working-group/pdf-competence-center/

Following the publication of the new ISO PDF 2.0 standard – ISO 32000-2 in July 2017, the PDF TWG will be producing PDF 2.0 Application Notes to support the implementation of the standard by developers whose PDF tools create and consume PDF.

ISO 32000-2 is the first PDF specification developed within the ISO working-group structure involving subject matter experts from many countries and is the first “post Adobe” standard  since they handed over its development to the ISO.

Speaking on news of his appointment Martin said, “The value of a standard can be greatly increased by a wider involvement of the relevant communities in shared education and discussion. The PDF Association has become the obvious group to help foster and guide that wider involvement for PDF itself and for many of the PDF-based standards in use today.”

Duff Johnson, the PDF Association’s executive director said, “PDF 2.0 is designed to be largely backward compatible, but older processors won’t handle new features.  The purpose of the new documents that will be developed by the PDF TWG is to help developers develop a common understanding of the new specification as well as best practices for implementation.” We’re very happy that Martin and Peter have agreed to lead this effort.

Martin Bailey is the primary UK expert to the ISO committees working on PDF, PDF/X and PDF/VT. In 2017 Global Graphics Software hosted two PDF 2.0 interoperability workshops on behalf of the PDF Association to provide a way for PDF tool developers to validate their work against the new ISO 32000-2 (PDF 2.0) standard by working with vendors of other tools.

What do you really need in a RIP to drive a digital press in labels & packaging?

In this latest post, Global Graphics CTO Martin Bailey goes back to basics and explores what you need in a RIP to drive a digital press for labels & packaging.

Martin highlights rendering your jobs correctly, color management with CMYK inks and spot colors, PDF layering and technical separations, and provides a high-level view of the features of the Harlequin RIP® for digital labels and packaging.

Watch Martin’s presentation here:

Follow us on Twitter: @Global_Graphics

Avoiding the orange peel

When you speak frequently at industry events as I do, you can tell what resonates with your audience. So, it was very gratifying to experience the collective nodding of heads at the Inkjet Conference in Neuss, Dusseldorf this week.

I gave an on update mitigating texture artifacts on inkjet presses using halftone screens.

You see, it turns out that there is more commonality between inkjet presses than we previously thought. I’m not saying that there is no need for a custom approach, because there will always be presses with specific characteristics that will need addressing through services like our BreakThrough engineering service.

What I am saying is that we’ve discovered that what matters most is the media. And it gives rise to two distinct types of behavior.

On reasonably absorbent and/or wettable media drops tend to coalesce on the substrate surface in the direction of the substrate, causing visible streaking especially in mid and three-quarter tones. These issues are amenable to correction in a half tone.

Whereas on non-absorbent, poorly wettable media such as flexible plastics or metal, prints are characterized by a mottle effect that looks a bit like orange peel. 

This effect seems to be triggered by ink shrinkage during cure. This can be corrected with a halftone with specially designed characteristics. We have one in test on real presses at the moment.

So it won’t be long now before we introduce two advanced screens for inkjet that will greatly improve quality on the majority of inkjet presses. One to counteract streaking. The other to counteract the orange peel effect. And the next project is to address non-uniformity across the web. Fixing that in software gives you the granularity to address every nozzle separately on any head/ electronics.

And for those presses aforementioned with unique properties that need special tuning? Our Chameleon design tools can create unique halftones for these cases.

I do like it when a good plan comes together!

Harlequin RIP helps to drive the new HP Production Pro for Indigo Labels & Packaging

Our corporate communications director, Jill Taylor, talks to Roy Faigenbloom of HP Indigo at Labelexpo Europe last month about the new digital front end driving the HP Production Pro for Indigo labels & packaging.

HP Indigo chose the Harlequin RIP as the RIP engine in this new DFE, which has been designed to drive all HP Indigo digital labels and packaging presses and has been rated as 5x faster than the previous DFE.