Impressed by pre-press
Impressed by pre-press
For converters, gaining any level of efficiency from their pre-press systems can deliver huge workflow advantages. With more integration across presses as converters develop hybrid services for their customers, Dave Howell considers how pre-press has managed to keep pace with this increasing demand.
The focus is often on the latest presses available to converters, yet some of the most interesting developments can be found in the pre-press sector. Vendors across the print services landscape have been innovating and jockeying for position, as brands continue to demand more stringent colour output on many more substrates.
X-Rite, for instance, recently announced its acquisition of ColorCert from Nelissen Consulting. X-Rite has been the exclusive distributor of ColorCert applications, which allow high levels of print and colour controls needed by today’s converters. The acquisition includes ColorCert Suite, including ColorCert desktop tools, the ColorCert ScoreCard server and ColorCert repository server.
“We have seen significant global adoption of the ColorCert Suite and it is an essential component of our long-term packaging strategy to deliver integrated workflow solutions that streamline colour management across the entire packaging lifecycle, from concept to final product,” says Adrián Fernández, vice-president, PantoneLIVE, X-Rite. “With this acquisition, we strengthen our investment in the ColorCert Suite, and will accelerate its product development to provide additional reporting and measurement functionality for press operators, improved usability and enhanced integration with X-Rite technology partners, as well as premedia, ink and press process-control tools.”
Mark Gundlach, solutions architect at X-Rite, explains how pre-press is now a vital component of any converter’s toolkit: “The pre-press department in a converting operation – or the pre-media house serving it – needs to be more concerned with handling exceptions than with repetitive tasks associated with opening and evaluating all aspects of each and every incoming file. The latter process is no longer viable with a larger number of shorter runs and very tight delivery commitments.”
Ingo Beutler, global manager for reproduction packaging at Saueressig, believes that pre-press software must become simpler to use. “Usability has to be improved. For most of the existing pre-press tools, there´s still the need for elaborate training. Complexity of learning and using the pre-press systems could be reduced.”
Ultimately, the pre-press systems that converters now have available offer sophisticated controls over more than just the colour space in use. Converters need this versatility because their customers are increasingly asking for more exotic print effects as they evolve their packaging needs.
Color-Logic has announced the support of their Process Metallic Color System by iC3D from Creative Edge Software for prototyping labels and packaging. Creative Edge Software's award-winning iC3D is the first all-in-one software for generating high-quality, 3D photorealistic packaging mock-ups in real time.
Trevor Haworth, managing partner at Creative Edge Software, says: "Users are able to visualise their ideas and truly experience their designs, allowing brand owners to increase the effectiveness and impact of their packaging before ever going to print."
Discussing the certification, Color-Logic CTO Richard Ainge comments: "The Color-Logic Design Suite (plug-ins and palettes for Adobe) was developed to enable designers to create decorative effects at a fraction of the time required to do so manually. Because time to market is a critical factor in the packaging and label market today, with Color-Logic and the iC3D software Brands, designers and pre-press personnel can visualise the Color-Logic effects on the package or labels across a broad spectrum of environments, or on a wide variety of metallic stocks before going to proofing and then production. The two technologies save brands a huge amount of time and cost in getting to market faster."
Brands have been placing demands on their converting partners to expand and extend their packaging offering. Metallics is clearly an area where innovation has continued. It is now possible to gain a metallic finish on non-metallic substrates with the arrival of a new process from Uflex that uses a combination of ink, specialist pre-press software and a unique rotogravure cylinder. The software ensures precise ink-dot alignment to give the metallic effect that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive using traditional techniques, which are not available across a wide range of substrates.
September 2017 will see Esko launch two new workflow applications at LabelExpo: WebCenter Essentials for Labels and Automation Engine Essentials for Labels are the twin advances Esko will show that build on its existing workflow automation systems. For label converters, WebCenter Essentials offers SaaS (software as a service) delivery including pre-configured set-ups. Automation Engine Essentials is able to meet most of the pre-press tasks faced by label converters that can scale their label workflow as customers demand changes.
Agfa Graphics has also been active within the pre-environment with a focus on anticounterfeiting solutions. As digital output becomes more common, pre-press systems are increasingly being developed to build in security measures that protect brands. A good example is the recently shown Arziro Design and Arziro Authenticate, which offer copy-proof QR-code printing.
Commenting on the launch of its solution, which Agfa Graphics showed at the recent Xeikon Café, Luc Bruyneel, business unit manager for security solutions at Agfa Graphics, says: “Agfa Graphics has developed a prominent position in new segments of industrial inkjet printing with our integrated pre-press solutions, which we look forward to sharing with visitors to the Café. We anticipate that the combination of innovations from Xeikon and other participating suppliers with Agfa security and anticounterfeiting solutions on show will inspire visitors to consider increasing protection from the growing threat of forgery.”
Automation and integration
One of the most critical areas that provides a consistent pressure point for converters is colour management. Coupled with this is the need to connect their systems together in order to offer integrated services that brands are increasingly demanding.
“In printing and packaging firms, there is increased interconnectivity – including connectivity with customer systems and the use of cloud-based solutions – that requires a growing level of IT expertise and open pre-press systems,” comments X-Rite’s Mark Gundlach. “Print and packaging service providers must also implement an end-to-end closed-loop colour-managed workflow supported by real-time statistical process control, beginning with job estimating, evaluation of incoming raw materials, including ink and substrates, through the file preparation and proofing process to production. Pre-press systems must be able to seamlessly integrate into this workflow. It is only in this way that firms will be successful in the future.”
John Henze, vice-president of Fiery marketing at EFI, agrees that more automation is vital with pre-press systems: “There is an increasing focus on automation and integration. To ensure that, an intuitive, integrated and automated workflow is needed. Longer turnaround times are no longer accepted and digital is gaining significance in this market. All these factors need a pre-press system to be efficient (using as few clicks as possible), automated (finding issues with the artwork automatically, even fixing where possible and alerting where not) and integrated (no retyping of information; direct connection with the ERP system or business workflow, helping with invoicing, stock management and quotes, for example).”
The pre-press systems or services that converters rely upon have had to evolve as demand has changed. The converting landscape is also moving towards levels of automation that are unprecedented. This is a reaction to how brands are demanding more flexibility with their print partners to support their marketing initiatives and longer-term packaging design plans. More simplicity with pre-press systems is a key pressure point today that all pre-press service providers are striving to meet.