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Wide format digital printing matures as a real part of “print for pay.”
Commentary by Steve Aranoff & Robert FitzPatrick, The EAGLE
(Guest Writer – Lou Laurent of Laurent Associates International for The EAGLE; email@example.com)
February 5, 2007 -- In the first part of this series, we introduced the concept of digital wide format display and specialty graphics, first coming to market through emerging businesses outside of the traditional print markets. Initially print production was the most important factor. That has been followed quite rapidly by the need for automated, digital finishing solutions.
Today, we can see that this wide format explosion has finally created opportunities in both the traditional and non-traditional print marketplaces. In this realm, what we see is really nothing more than an extension of the recognized post-printing, binding and finishing needs of traditional printers. In other words, the need for automated finishing has become just as important in the display and specialty printing process as it is for conventional offset, flexographic and screen printing. As users of wide format digital printers began to fully understand the power of their new digital presses, so too did they begin to recognize the need for finishing; today that need also includes finishing curved and three dimensional objects.
But, this isn’t where it ends; rather it marks the beginning of the next trend. As users have expanded their wide format printer usage beyond a few simple banners or signs, they have begun to more clearly understand that printed display and specialty graphics have even more complex finishing needs; these needs involve 3-dimensional finishing, variable data and on-demand production requirements that may continually alter the finishing requirements of printed jobs.
Cutting complex large and/or small shapes, in very small quantities, is not possible by standard die cutting means, or at all practical to cut by hand. As we discussed Mr. Freedman’s comments in the first part of this series, MGE's i-cut products were the first that were readily available to wed the precision of motorized computer controlled X-Y cutting/routing heads with camera technology; the result is the ability to accurately and quickly cut/finish prints of any shape, regardless of the differences between the expected images and that presented to the camera.
Having started in advance of the market, MGE’s development efforts have continued to provide the enhancements that their customer base recognized were needed by broadening their accurate cutting capability to include their literally "cutting edge workflow™" called i-script®. I-script enables a standardized workflow for digital printing and finishing of graphics, much like Postscript/PDF and/or JDF (Job Description Format) does for rectangular printed work.
In 2006, i-script workflow became the clear market leader in that over 3 dozen companies supplying RIP software, digital printers and X-Y cutting devices (see list below) bought into this philosophy. These companies provide the various necessary pieces of standardized solutions that, linked together, allow wide format printer owners to develop standardized workflows independent of the specific print-for-pay products they offer their customers. While not yet a true industry standard, this i-script/i-cut workflow provides many of the same benefits that offset printers have benefited from through standardized Postscript, JDF or CIP3 compliant workflows.
Within this i-script standard, any of the various i-cut equipped X-Y cutting devices (knife cut, kiss-cut, oscillating cut, routing, and laser) can accurately cut shapes on any material – in a fraction of the time and cost compared to conventional means such as die cutting and hand cutting. The trick here is the unique approach that MGE incorporates for feeding back imagery from the mounted, laminated, or directly printed media to the various i-cut equipped x-y platforms’ motorized cutting/routing heads.
Since media type, UV drying, pressure laminating, and other direct or indirect mechanical conditions create many kinds of distortions in the printed contour edge, rather than the designed contour, a vision system that can handle any kind of distortion correction is required. All printed graphics contains distortions due to complex media composition and shape, larger print sizes, and printing methods.
One final point: success. MGE's i-cut software is now utilized on almost 1,500 cutting devices worldwide. It is designed so that traditional graphic arts prepress people feel at home setting up the i-script workflow instructions using vector-based software. Such applications as Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw can easily be used to prepare the i-script workflow. Their standard RIPs can be used to further expand the output format, enable the nesting of many graphical images onto a single print (with register marks) and simultaneously create cutting files linked to the print files. If this isn’t a standard like Postscript, it is the closest thing to it in a Graphic Description Language.
For those thinking about adding wide format capability, or adding automated finishing to your current capabilities, the multi-platform opportunity available with i-cut is a good place to start your search – and perhaps to find a profitable solution. Remember, digital workflow is only as good as the digital components that are integrated to fully automate the manufacturing process. As soon as the digital process is interrupted by manual intervention, the performance and payback of the entire digital manufacturing process is compromised.
According to MGE literature, their current corporate partners are listed below. They offer a broad range of choices for automating the finishing of display and specialty graphics. What is important to remember is that you can “mix and match” from this list to optimize your current needs without worrying that future needs will require a complete change to your digital manufacturing operations.
i-script Certified RIP Partners: 11
3M Graphics Maker
Printer Partners working with the i-script certified RIPs: 14
FlatBed Cutter/Router/Laser Partners: i-cut® Branded/i-dot™ OEM Technology: 11
AXYZ Automation Inc.
Stephen P. Aranoff is founder and principal of ARTTEX Associates. He has 28 years experience in the development and profitable distribution of printing/digital imaging market products. Managing prepress technology companies from start-up through significant growth, such as Xyvision, Eikonix, Raytheon Graphics, UNDA, and ScanView, he has played a leading role in introducing many first-of-a-kind successful printing industry products.
Since 1986, ARTTEX has provided pragmatic business, marketing and sales strategy and implementation consulting to both large and small client companies based upon this successful operating expertise - including bringing off shore products to the domestic market.
Well known clients include: Cactus/3M, Dainippon Screen, Heartland Imaging/VieNet, Island Graphics, Kodak, Ricoh, and Scitex, as well as venture capitalists, law firms and startup technology ventures.
Since 1995, Mr. Aranoff has specialized in the marketing and distribution of Digital Imaging products, with emphasis on marketplace convergence brought about by the use of powerful off-the-shelf components.
Mr. Aranoff also holds a Masters Degrees in Systems Engineering and an MBA Degree, with Distinction, in Sales/Marketing. He often serves as a speaker and forum moderator and for many years, has done so at NAGASA's Forums. He is also a frequent guest writer for digital imaging publications.
Contact Stephen Aranoff at: 25 Canyon Shadows Drive, Sedona, AZ 86336 USA, Tel: (928)282-4173, Cell: (928)300-8757, Fax: (775)254-5768, email: Steve@arttex.com
Robert L. FitzPatrick, president of FitzPatrick Management Inc., is an industrial relations consultant, writer, speaker, facilitator, and trade association advisor. He is a nationally recognized analyst of mature industries. His work involves grasping the fundamental economic needs of all parties in the supply chain as well as understanding the dynamics and life cycles of products.
Since 1981, Robert FitzPatrick has continuously published THE EAGLE, a unique and influential journal that analyzes technology, manufacturer/ dealer relations and trends in analog and digital product distribution. His articles on the dynamics of mature industries have appeared in trade journals for graphic arts, sanitation supply, automobile parts, office automation, wholesale florist and food processing industries, among others.
He has been a featured speaker at dealer conferences for Hewlett Packard, FujiFilm, among other major companies and he has organized international dealer/manufacturer conferences in Antwerp, Belgium and in Guadalajara, Mexico. Consultancy clients of FitzPatrick Management include Fuji Photo, DuPont, Lastra S.p.a., Anchor Chemistry, AB Dick, #1 Network, London Litho, Heartland Imaging, VieNet.com, among others.
He was a consultant and featured speaker at the meetings of Food Industries Suppliers Association (FISA) four consecutive years. In 1997, Robert FitzPatrick co-authored and published the first book to expose and critique the multi-level marketing model of sales and distribution. Entitled, False Profits, this book is available in bookstores nationwide or from the publisher at web site www.falseprofits.com. He has served as Expert Witness in various cases involving pyramid scheme fraud perpetrated against independent distributors.
Contact Robert FitzPatrick at 1522 Lilac Rd., Charlotte, NC 28209 USA. Tel.: (704) 334-2047, Fax: (704) 334-0220, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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