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.
I’m proud to announce that I’m chairing a new task force that has just been created in TC130, the ISO committee focused on standardization for the printing industry. The task force is named “PDF Common Metadata”, and its focus is on constructing a metadata framework that can be embedded within a PDF file to guide production workflow decisions.
We created a precursor to this work in PDF/VT, in cooperation with CIP4. In that case a hierarchical structure of metadata in the PDF file was intended to be used with a templated JDF job ticket (or similar structure) to ensure that complex variable data jobs could be imposed, printed and finished correctly. Unfortunately the model we used set the bar too high and most composition vendors and press manufacturers felt that implementation was too difficult.
But there are a wide range of situations where a simpler model has real value. Indeed, the current work grew out of requests from the transactional print space to be able to include media selections and simplex/duplex controls in a PDF file. That request was initially reviewed by the PDF/VT Competence Center in the PDF Association who concluded that the benefits of a suitable solution would apply across the printing industry, not just in variable data.
The solution proposed is to build on the concept of ‘intents’ from JDF (although not directly on JDF itself). These describe what the final printed piece is supposed to look like, rather than specifying the details of the processes required to make it. The thought process is that the digital front end (DFE) on a digital press can map from that to the actual steps needed.
As a simple example, a request for a specific substrate should be fairly easy to map to an entry in the media library in a DFE and therefore to tray selections (on a sheet-fed press) and to installing the correct ICC color profile. In closed loop workflows such as web to print the first mapping shouldn’t be necessary at all, because the media selection will be pre-populated from the same data as the media library.
The committee met for the first time in San Jose last week, and we’re looking forward to some lively debate. Our first goal is a standard for graphic arts, but there has already been discussion of following on with equivalents targeted more specifically at packaging and at wide format.
If you’re interested in getting involved please contact your national standards body and tell them you want to work in ISO TC130/WG2/TF5. If you don’t know who to contact in your country, drop me a line and I’m happy to make introductions.
Meet Srikrishna Nudurumati, Global Graphics Colour Scientist and a member of our Fundamentals BreakThrough Engineering Services team. Srikrishna is passionate about colour and has many years of experience working in the field. We asked Srikrishna a few questions so you can get to know him better:
In his own words …
Tell us about your job. What do you do? Broadly, I am a physicist with specific interest in applications of colour vision & imaging research to software products. In my current role at Global Graphics, as a Colour Scientist, I lead the research & development to ensure best quality reproduction with our products as well as for our customers through our software and engineering services package, Fundamentals.
What is the best thing about your job? An exceptional aspect about my job in colour imaging is that colour is also my hobby. What more? Time is the only limit. We at Global Graphics, strive continuously, helping our customers to be the first to embrace the latest advancements in the industry. I am glad to be at the forefront, influencing to provide the best to our customers.
Tell us about the path you took to get where you are today My academic background stems from remote sensing, satellite imaging, digital photogrammetry and colour image processing. I have gained considerable practical knowledge of computer vision, pattern recognition and machine learning on the job during my initial assignments as a junior researcher. My IT career path from a software programmer working in medical imaging, to a researcher in colour engineering software was not planned. I strongly believe in Kaizen, even for improving one’s knowledge. During the past twelve years, I have made it a mandatory part of my daily schedule to learn something new and I continue this tradition today.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career so far? I have been a part of the IT industry, as a software design engineer and also briefly in academia as a PhD researcher. I am happy to have learnt numerous invaluable lessons in my career so far already. It is imperative to align one’s interests with the general mission and goals of the organisation one works for. Identifying and being a part of an organisation, which facilitates such an alignment defines the first step to success. I work with an entrepreneurial instinct when it comes to defining, scoping and accomplishing my responsibilities, but with alignment to the organisation’s goals. That said, everyone in an organisation must be an influencer to whatever extent he/she can be.
As a colour expert, what’s the most important aspect of colour in your opinion? It is an important consideration that we are all different in the way we think of colour and perceive colour. Although colour and vision science establishes these variances to a very large extent, conventional colour engineering has not adopted these quite well. Colour engineering for printing is not based on a single branch of physics, but is a conglomerate of various phenomena, the roots of which lie in different realms of physics. The challenge that a colour scientist tries to address is to make it clear to the end user in an intuitive manner, how each parameter influences the overall quality of reproduction, be it for the display screen for softproofing or a print.
What are the challenges in successful colour engineering for printing? Colour management workflow for reproduction by printing is much more complex than for colour reproduction on display systems & screens. The physical model of a printing system comprises a colour workflow similar to that of a camera or a display system, but additionally deals with ink-media physical and optical interaction, grey balance, multilevel colourants, screening or halftoning, effects of metamerism and user preferences etc, in the form of inverse models. Added to these are the uncertainties in the reproduction chain. This could be uncertainty in the actual printer gamut, uncertainty in the printer mechanical behaviour in the field, differences in viewing environment etc. It is a challenge to provide the end users a system which makes them oblivious to the intricacies of the underlying mathematical models that transform the colour seamlessly from image capture to printed reproduction. We at Global Graphics provide our customers with a simplified view and controls for colour management, to tune their systems. This lets them focus their efforts in bringing out their creativity without worrying about numerous parameters that they would otherwise have to balance manually.
Fundamentals offers inkjet press manufacturers a quicker way to get their presses to market. It is a new concept that combines the software products that are essential to create your Digital Front End with our BreakThrough Engineering Service that helps you overcome the technical hurdles involved in developing a new press. Visit http://www.globalgraphics.com/products/fundamentals for more information.
You often read news items about a new press having been installed at a beta site but it’s not a topic that gets much of an airing apart from the odd news bulletin, is it?
And that got me thinking.
What is considered to be a successful beta test? And why should we care?
Well, if you do care, you are not just going through the motions to get your press out of the door. You are more likely to be focussed on delivering a good product. You probably view beta testing as an opportunity to make changes for the better and to help improve product management. You care what comes back because you want to develop a good product. It’s important to you to get understandable and useful data.
So what do you want to know? Your beta test should provide you with proof points as to why your printer is going to be successful in the market. “Real” users will use and abuse your press and put it through its paces in a way that your own internal hardware and software engineers will not. Any weaknesses will be exposed. And you’ll get closer to your customer by working together with them in a way that just wouldn’t be open to you if you didn’t run a beta program.
The thing is how do you extract meaningful data from your test? And how do you rule out those problems that have nothing to do with your press, such as humidity, ambient temperature, the way the site is being operated?
Somehow you need to control the environment that the beta test is conducted in and approach the beta test in quite a formal way to rule out any subjectivity that might creep in.
We’ve got some ideas on how to achieve this which I’ll share in another post. But I’d be interested in hearing how you do it. What are your top tips?
It’s been a really interesting week chatting to vendors and the press about our new software and services package for inkjet. In case you missed it, we’ve called it Fundamentals because it combines essential software components and engineering expertise that press vendors need to build a Digital Front End.
What’s the big deal you might say? Well, The Times They Are A Changing to quote Bob Dylan both in terms of the progression of inkjet technology and the swing towards digital printing in the labels and packaging sector which is where we have focussed our initial offering of Fundamentals.
Thanks to our lengthy graphic arts experience – we’ve been supplying software to drive digital presses since 2002 – we are regularly approached by inkjet press vendors either to intervene at some point in an existing workflow or because they’re starting from a blank sheet of paper and need to figure out how to build a Digital Front End for a new press.
If they have an existing DFE a press vendor might be stuck on output quality, or maybe they can’t get the throughput in speed that they need. If they’re building a new press they might not know where to quickly source the components they need. Or often they can’t allocate enough engineering resource to the DFE when they need to. Plus it takes a very special skill set to know how to wire it all together.
How do we know all this? Because vendors tell us so. And Fundamentals is our response to this market demand. It offers best of breed software products with an engineering service that allows the press vendor to address their specific applications.
It will grow, of course. We are already looking at a Fundamentals software bundle for industrial inkjet for example. But the good news for press vendors is that we can do all of the above and then some!
One of the many highlights of our drupa stand will be the new Harlequin RIP. We asked Martin Bailey, CTO at Global Graphics, to tell us more about it. He told us that there are a host of new features to improve inkjet output quality including richer, multi-level screening controls, more controls for variable data printing, and new features for labels and packaging applications. Hear his summary in this video below.
Fancy a test drive? Join us at drupa 2016, Stand 70 B21/C20 in the dip. Simply contact us to book a demonstration.
Stay tuned for more announcements over the next couple of weeks.
Remember in olden times how you sent a file to print on a wing and a prayer? OK, it wasn’t that bad! But it was unreliable. Figures showed that print-ready file delivery had failure rates of between 30 – 70% and this was a real problem for print service providers with high throughput like magazine houses.
Then PDF/X came along and greatly improved the situation. It was strengthened by additional standardisation efforts from several other bodies including Ghent PDF Workgroup and Altona.
PDF/X worked because it ensured delivery of files ready to high-quality print. And because it dealt with the headache so well, print service providers recommended it.
Fast forward for a moment to today and to the tidal wave that is variable data printing. Most buyers deliver the brief and the dataset to the print service provider (PSP). A full service PSP will offer data mining, graphic design, composition and print. Offering a full service promises higher margins. If you only provide a print service you can expect lower margins, but your model connects better to web-to-print services that are burgeoning. But if you try to “just print” VDP jobs, those that fail will eliminate profit.
I’ve been invited to speak at the Online Print Symposium in Munich (17th – 18th March) about why PDF/VT and Industry 4.0 are set to change online print forever. The truth is that VDP has been hanging around street corners looking for a PDF/X. Well, now it’s found one because that’s what PDF/VT is. It’s been created to deal with every page being different and to give PSPs more control over the workflow.
I would go so far to suggest that print-ready file delivery of graphically rich variable data from outside the print company is unlikely to succeed without it! And on that bombshell…!
Standards for variable data printing (VDP) have come a long way since the first work by CGATS to develop a universal delivery format in the late 1990s. In 2010 the International Standards Organization published the PDF/VT standard, marking the first really effective specification for a reliable, vendor-neutral exchange of variable data jobs, both within and between companies.
A special type of the PDF file format, PDF/VT is specifically used for variable data and transactional printing in a variety of environments, from desktop printing to high volume digital production presses. Built on PDF/X, it therefore brings all the advantages of that standard in enforcing best practices for reproducible and predictable color and appearance to the variable data and transactional print worlds.
The industry is gradually realizing its value to improve quality, competitiveness and productivity, and I’ve been working with the PDF/VT Competence Center, especially with Christoph Oeters (Sofha), Paul Jones (Teclyn bv) and Tim Donahue (technical consultant) to produce a new set of Application Notes highlighting the benefits of using PDF/VT and the workflows that it enables.
The Application Notes explain how to make the highest quality and most efficient PDF/VT files to achieve the required visual appearance of a job, so if you develop software to read and write PDF/VT files, for example in composition tools, RIPs, digital front ends and imposition tools, or if you work on print workflow integration, you’ll find the notes really beneficial. They also show how document part metadata can be applied and leveraged for VDP specific production workflows.
Of course, there are wider benefits to using PDF/VT: The adoption of PDF/VT will allow the industry to finally move towards a reliable, vendor-neutral exchange of variable data jobs, simplifying the process of variable data printing significantly.
Our Harlequin product team has launched a set of hybrid screens specially developed to give premium quality in flexo work.
The screens address the well-known issues of how to achieve high-quality in the highlight areas of images, such as tones close to white or skin tones, and how to print those areas with smooth gradations.
“We used the Harlequin Cross Modulated™ screens as the basis for development and have expanded the number of screens and included a mechanism to auto select calibration that goes with a particular screen,” comments Martin Bailey, CTO, Global Graphics.
“With the new Harlequin Cross Modulated Flexo (HXMFlexo) screens you can produce high-quality graphical objects by selecting from a wide choice of screen resolutions, rulings and dot sizes. Pre-press operators also now have the ability to bump up curves at the highlight end to compensate for flexo not being able to produce tones close to white clearly, so you can achieve smooth gradations even in high-key images.”
The new screens are the result of working with our OEM partners in the flexo market who have used the Harlequin RIP for years and we’ve been able to take input from a variety of vendors to fine tune our plans.
HXMFlexo works with the latest editions of the Harlequin RIP.
For those who missed it at PODi and XPlor, I’m presenting two free webinars this week on “Do PDF/VT Right: how to make problem free files for variable data printing”, hosted by Dscoop University – the Digital Solutions Cooperative. You don’t have to be a member of Dscoop, nor an HP Indigo user to join.
If you’d like to sign up to hear me talk through the guide, download the “Top 5 tips” poster, and have the chance to ask any questions, please register using the following links: