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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With Labelexpo Europe 2017 less than a week away, it won’t be long before we start to pack the car and head off on the Eurostar to Brussels.
It’s going to be an exciting show for us this year, with some key announcements from our major OEM customers – we’re looking forward to supporting them and demonstrating our technologies.
If you have to create a digital front end but don’t know where to start, come and talk to us. With Fundamentals, we’ll show you how you can bring your digital inkjet label press to market quickly and easily. Our BreakThrough Technical Services team will also be on hand to answer your questions from color management to screening.
We also have some new features for labels and packaging in the Harlequin RIP® to show you, including controls for deciding when to blend emulated spot colors with process colors for exceptionally accurate brand color matching, and extended controls over PDF layers so that optional content used in process control can be individually switched on or off.
We’ll be on Stand 9B17, so please stop by and say hello. If you’d like to book an appointment, simply contact us: email@example.com. In the meantime, we’ve made this short video to whet your appetite. Enjoy!
Last week was the first PDF 2.0 interop event, hosted by Global Graphics in Cambridge, UK on behalf of the PDF Association. The interop was an opportunity for developers from various companies working on their support for PDF 2.0 to get together and share sample files, and to process them in their own solutions. If a sample file from one vendor isn’t read correctly by a product from another vendor the developers can then figure out why, and fix either the creation tool or the consumer, or even both, depending on the exact reason for that failure.
When we make our own PDF sample files to test the Harlequin RIP there’s always a risk that the developer making the file and the developer writing the code to consume it will make the same assumptions or misread the specification in the same way. That makes testing files created by another vendor invaluable, because it validates all of those assumptions and possible misinterpretations as well.
It’s pretty early in the PDF 2.0 process (the standard itself will probably be published later this month), which means that some vendors are not yet far enough through their own development cycles to get involved yet. But that actually makes this kind of event even more valuable for those who participate because there are no currently shipping products out there that we could just buy and make sample files with. And the last thing that any of us want to do as vendors is to find out about incompatibilities after our products are shipped and in our customers’ hands.
I can tell you that our testing and discussions at the interop in Cambridge were extremely useful in finding a few issues that our internal testing had not identified. We’re busy correcting those, and will be taking updated software to the next interop, in Boston, MA on June 12th and 13th.
If you’re a Harlequin OEM or member of the Harlequin Partner Network you can also get access to our PDF 2.0 preview code to test against your own or other partners’ products; just drop me a line. If you’re using Harlequin in production I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until we release our next major version!
If you’re a software vendor with products that consume or create PDF and you’re already working on your PDF 2.0 support I’d heartily recommend registering for the June interop. I don’t know of any more efficient way to identify defects in your implementation so you can fix them before your customers even see them. Visit https://www.pdfa.org/event/pdf-interoperability-workshop-north-america/ to get started.
And if you’re a PDF software vendor and you’re not working on PDF 2.0 yet … time to start your planning!
Recently my wife came home from a local sewing shop proudly waving a large piece of material, which turned out to be a “swatch book” for quilting fabrics. She now has it pinned up on the wall of her hobby room.
It made me wonder how many separations or spot colors I’d ever seen in a single job myself … ignoring jobs specifically designed as swatches.
I think my personal experience probably tops out at around 18 colors, which was for a design guide for a fuel company’s forecourts after a major redesign of their branding. It was a bit like a US banknote: lots of colors, but most of them green!
But I do occasionally hear about cases where a print company or converter, especially in packaging, is looking to buy a new digital press. I’m told it’s common for them to impose together all of their most challenging jobs on the grounds that if the new press (or rather, the DFE on the new press) can handle that, then they can be confident that it’ll handle any of the jobs they receive individually. Of course, if you gang together multiple unrelated jobs, each of which uses multiple spot colors, then you can end up with quite a few different ones on the whole sheet.
“Why does this matter?” I hear you ask.
It would be easy to assume that a request for a spot color in the incoming PDF file for a job is very ephemeral; that it’s immediately converted into an appropriate set of process colors to emulate that spot on the press. Several years ago, in the time of PostScript, and for PDF prior to version 1.4, you could do that. But the advent of live transparency in PDF made things a bit harder. If you naïvely transform spots to process builds as soon as you see them, and if the spot colored object is involved in any transparency blending, then you’ll get a result that looks very different to the same job being printed on a press that actually has an ink for that spot color. In other words, prints from your digital press might not match a print from a flexo press, which is definitely not a good place to be!
So in practice, the RIP needs to retain the spot as a spot until all of the transparency blending and composition has been done, and can only merge it into the process separations afterwards. And that goes for all of the spots in the job, however many of them there are.
Although I was a bit dismissive of swatches above, those are also important. Who would want to buy a wide format printer, or a printer for textiles, or even for packaging or labels, if you can’t provide swatches to your customers and to their designers?
All of this really came into focus for me because, until recently, the Harlequin RIP could only manage 250 spots per page. That sounds a lot, but wasn’t enough for some of our customers. In response to their requests we’ve just delivered a new revision to our OEM partners that can handle a little over 8000 spots per page. I’m hoping that will be enough for a while!
If you decide to take that as a challenge, I’d love to see what you print with it!