If you’re into code, then you’ll enjoy watching the recording of our recent webinar, Sharpen the saw: a live coding demo using Mako™.
Mako is a versatile SDK for building fast, scalable solutions for your print workflow. Its unique document object model uses Mako’s C++ and C# APIs to control color, fonts, text, images, vector content, metadata and more, combining precision with performance.
In the session, principal engineer Andy Cardy uses coding in C++ and C# to show you three complex tasks that you can easily achieve with Mako:
Using Mako in Cloud-ready frameworks
Analyzing and editing with the Mako Document Object Model
Look out for more sessions like this over the coming months.
Would you fill your brand-new Ferrari with cheap and inferior fuel? It’s a question posed by Martin Bailey in his new guide: ‘Full Speed Ahead – how to make variable data PDF files that won’t slow your digital press’. It’s an analogy he uses to explain the importance of putting well-constructed PDF files through your DFE so that they don’t disrupt the printing process and the DFE runs as efficiently as possible.
Here are Martin’s recommendations to help you avoid making jobs that delay the printing process, so you can be assured that you’ll meet your print deadline reliably and achieve your printing goals effectively:
If you’re printing work that doesn’t make use of variable data on a digital press, you’re probably producing short runs. If you weren’t, you’d be more likely to choose an offset or flexo press instead. But “short runs” very rarely means a single copy.
Let’s assume that you’re printing, for example, 50 copies of a series of booklets, or of an imposed form of labels. In this case the DFE on your digital press only needs to RIP each PDF page once.
To continue the example, let’s assume that you’re printing on a press that can produce 100 pages per minute (or the equivalent area for labels etc.). If all your jobs are 50 copies long, you therefore need to RIP jobs at only two pages per minute (100ppm/50 copies). Once a job is fully RIPped and the copies are running on press you have plenty of time to get the next job prepared before the current one clears the press.
But VDP jobs place additional demands on the processing power available in a DFE because most pages are different to every other page and must therefore each be RIPped separately. If you’re printing at 100 pages per minute the DFE must RIP at 100 pages per minute; fifty times faster than it needed to process for fifty copies of a static job.
Each minor inefficiency in a VDP job will often only add between a few milliseconds and a second or two to the processing of each page, but those times need to be multiplied up by the number of pages in the job. An individual delay of half a second on every page of a 10,000-page job adds up to around an hour and a half for the whole job. For a really big job of a million pages it only takes an extra tenth of a second per page to add 24 hours to the total processing time.
If you’re printing at 120ppm the DFE must process each page in an average of half a second or less to keep up with the press. The fastest continuous feed inkjet presses at the time of writing are capable of printing an area equivalent to over 13,000 pages per minute, which means each page must be processed in just over 4ms. It doesn’t take much of a slow-down to start impacting throughput.
If you’re involved in this kind of calculation you may find the digital press data rate calculator at https://blog.globalgraphics.com/tag/data-rate/ useful:
This extra load has led DFE builders to develop a variety of optimizations. Most of these work by reducing the amount of data that must be RIPped. But even with those optimizations a complex VDP job typically requires significantly more processing power than a ‘static’ job where every copy is the same.
The amount of processing required to prepare a PDF file for print in a DFE can vary hugely without affecting the visual appearance of the printed result, depending on how it is constructed.
Poorly constructed PDF files can therefore impact a print service provider in one or both of two ways:
Output is not achieved at engine speed, reducing return on investment (ROI) because fewer jobs can be produced per shift. In extreme cases when printing on a continuous feed (web-fed) press a failure to deliver rasters for printing fast enough can also lead to media wastage and may confuse in-line or near-line finishing.
In order to compensate for jobs that take longer to process in the DFE, press vendors often provide more hardware to expand the processing capability, increasing the bill of materials, and therefore the capital cost of the DFE.
Once the press is installed and running the production manager will usually calculate and tune their understanding of how many jobs of what type can be printed in a shift. Customer services representatives work to ensure that customer expectations are set appropriately, and the company falls into a regular pattern. Most jobs are quoted on an acceptable turn-round time and delivered on schedule.
Depending on how many presses the print site has, and how they are connected to one or more DFEs this may lead to a press sitting idle, waiting for pages to print. It may also delay other jobs in the queue or mean that they must be moved to a different press. Moving jobs at the last minute may not be easy if the presses available are not identical. Different presses may require different print streams or imposition and there may be limitations on stock availability, etc.
Many jobs have tight deadlines on delivery schedules; they may need to be ready for a specific time, with penalties for late delivery, or the potential for reduced return for the marketing department behind a direct mail campaign. Brand owners may be ordering labels or cartons on a just in time (JIT) plan, and there may be consequences for late delivery ranging from an annoyed customer to penalty clauses being invoked.
Those problems for the print service provider percolate upstream to brand owners and other groups commissioning digital print. Producing an inefficiently constructed PDF file will increase the risk that your job will not be delivered by the expected time.
You shouldn’t take these recommendations as suggesting that the DFE on any press is inadequate. Think of it as the equivalent of a suggestion that you should not fill your brand-new Ferrari with cheap and inferior fuel!
The above is an excerpt from Full Speed Ahead: how to make variable data PDF files that won’t slow your digital press. The guide is designed to help you avoid making jobs that disrupt and delay the printing process, increasing the probability of everyone involved in delivering the printed piece; hitting their deadlines reliably and achieving their goals effectively.
To be the first to receive our blog posts, news updates and product news why not subscribe to our monthly newsletter? Subscribe here
About the author:
Martin Bailey first joined what has now become Global Graphics Software in the early nineties, and has worked in customer support, development and product management for the Harlequin RIP as well as becoming the company’s Chief Technology Officer. During that time he’s also been actively involved in a number of print-related standards activities, including chairing CIP4, CGATS and the ISO PDF/X committee. He’s currently the primary UK expert to the ISO committees maintaining and developing PDF and PDF/VT.
The use of variable data has increased exponentially over the past five years and is emerging in new applications such as industrial inkjet. Yet poorly designed variable data PDF files disrupt production and reduce ROI.
Watch the recent webinar with Global Graphics Software’s CTO Martin Bailey, the author of Full Speed Ahead, a new guide to offer advice to anyone with a stake in variable data printing, including graphic designers, print buyers, production managers, press operators, composition tool developers and users.
In the webinar Martin presents an overview of the guide and highlights some of the key tips and tricks for graphic designers, prepress and print service providers, showing how, when they all work together, VDP jobs can fly through digital presses.
Sponsored by Delphax Solutions, Digimarc, HP Indigo, HP PageWide Industrial, HYBRID Software, Kodak, Racami and WhatTheyThink, the guide is a practical format for easy reference and includes:
• Tips and tricks for making fast, efficient PDF files for variable data printing
• Helpful illustrations, photos and explanatory diagrams
• Real examples from industry
When a major print OEM switched from a market-leading RIP technology to the Harlequin RIP®, they achieved a faster development time and performance and quality benchmarks with a reduced bill of materials cost.
The Challenge When a leading print OEM was looking to move to a PDF RIP technology that was easy to integrate and help to achieve quality and performance benchmarks, it contacted Global Graphics Software Partner Network member, Vir Softech. As a RIP replacement service provider, the team at Vir Softech includes experienced engineers, with experts who have worked on all the major RIP technologies and understand the interfaces and functions they offer.
The Solution Vir Softech recommended switching from the existing RIP technology to the Harlequin RIP from Global Graphics Software. Vir Softech had experience of using the Harlequin RIP in a similar project and knew it would meet the print OEM’s requirements. After a period of evaluation, including quality and performance benchmarking, the print OEM chose to use the Harlequin RIP.
Deepak Garg, managing director at Vir Softech explains the process: “The first step towards making the change was to assess and understand the various features and functions offered by the OEM’s print devices.”
After investigating, the team prepared a design document highlighting:
The OEM’s product features that interact with the RIP technology
How these product features are implemented
The various RIP interfaces which are used to implement these features and functions
Deepak continues: “Once the print OEM decided to go ahead, we prepared another document highlighting how to achieve these functions using the Harlequin interfaces. Some functions or features could not be implemented using Harlequin directly, such as special color handling, spot color replacement, extraction of cut data etc., so we contacted Global Graphics Software who was able to provide a design showing how these functions could be implemented using Harlequin. We then prepared a proof-of-concept, or working implementation, which demonstrated how the Harlequin RIP would work with the print OEM’s print devices. With Harlequin, such a prototype can usually be achieved within three to six months.”
The Result Development time was much shorter than usual for such an ambitious undertaking, greatly reducing costs and enabling the print OEM to drive their revenue earlier than originally expected. The print OEM began using the Harlequin RIP, instantly meeting its quality and performance targets.
The print OEM says: “The Harlequin RIP helped us to move to native PDF printing and achieve the performance targets for our printers. Harlequin also helped us to reduce the lead time for getting our products to market while keeping development and maintenance costs low.”
About Vir Softech Vir Softech is a technology start-up with expertise in imaging and computer vision technologies. With a strong focus in the Print & Publishing domain, its team of experienced engineers includes experts in all aspects of imaging and RIP technologies, such as job management, job settings, color management, screening, bands generation and management, VDP and imposition etc.
The team at Vir Softech are experts in configuring RIP technologies for better performance targeted for a specific market segment such as production, commercial, large format and enterprise printing. Some of the areas where Vir Softech can help include low resource environment, implementing OEM-specific unique functions using Harlequin RIP interfaces, making use of OEM ASIC for better performance, making use of OEM hardware accelerators for some of the computer-intensive RIP operations such as color conversion, image transformations, image decoding, rendering etc and achieving PPM target of MFP for ISO test suites.
If you print on an inkjet press you’ll know that the problem of non-uniformity or banding is a particularly difficult one to resolve. It’s especially acute on areas of flat tints with the result that printed output is unacceptable to you and to your customers. This means you either don’t run certain jobs on your inkjet press or, in some sectors of the market, are forced to sell your output at a discount.
The good news is that with PrintFlat you have a solution that is quick to deploy and cost-effective, and it can be applied to any workflow with or without a RIP. With more press vendors adopting this technology, watch our new explainer video to see how you might benefit.
With just a few days to Labelexpo Europe 2019, preparation is in full swing. Come along to booth 9A15 where we’ll be previewing a new version of Fundamentals™, our toolkit for building a digital front end.
Fundamentals is a collaboration between Global Graphics Software and HYBRID Software – and its beauty lies in its simplicity: Fundamentals 2.0 makes it easy for the press operator to keep control of the workflow. Easy step and repeat and nesting via STEPZ with award-winning VDP composition from HYBRID Software makes it possible to estimate and plan single or multi-gang jobs and see how the output will appear when printed, helping to reduce errors and wasted media.
Consistent and predictable color for a wide range of design and creation workflows using industry-standard tools is achieved with Harlequin ColorPro ™ and there’s support for ICC profiles, including device ink and N-channel profiles too.
ScreenPro™, the award-winning multi-level screening engine, streams data directly to the print electronics at press speed, unlocking maximum productivity on variable data jobs to process ultra-high data rates with the reliability required to maximize press up time.
It’s that time of year again … we’re back from our summer vacations and are now preparing for Labelexpo Europe 2019.
And things have certainly moved on at a pace since we were last in Brussels: This year, on booth 9A15, we’ll be previewing a new version of Fundamentals™, our simple toolkit for building a digital front end. Fundamentals is a cooperation between Global Graphics Software and HYBRID Software and we have developed it so you can access the essential software components you need to create a DFE using a simple, modern web-based user interface.
The latest version, Fundamentals 2.0, has a host of new features that make it easy to print label and flexible packaging jobs in only a few steps and it reduces waste by making the best use of media – all this with accurate, consistent color throughout.
Fundamentals product manager, Tom Mooney says: “We are delighted to introduce some major changes to Fundamentals at Labelexpo, such as Hybrid’s STEPZ imposition and award-winning VDP composition engine, as well as significant technology evolutions with multiple parallel Harlequin RIPs for high-speed PDF processing. We have also introduced a new generation of ScreenPro™ that streams image data at the high press speeds demanded by the new models of digital presses.”
Earlier in the year, we visited Mark Andy Inc (find them on booths 4C45 and 8A60) and saw at first hand how Fundamentals has made a real impact on the Mark Andy ProWORX Digital Front End.
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.
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.
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.