Monday, March 23, 2015
The last time we took a good look at Impika inkjet offerings was prior to drupa 2012 and the Xerox acquisition. Since that last article, Xerox has integrated the Impika organization into the Xerox organization, its former offerings into the Xerox portfolio and now into the Xerox master brand. 

With this new announcement, Xerox is releasing the first true collaborative effort following the acquisition. The Xerox® Rialto™ 900 inkjet press is a major departure from the other production inkjet machines we have seen. It is designed as roll-to-cut-sheet press, and most importantly in a small footprint. Xerox is targeting this as easy to acquire and use, similar to its sheetfed toner-based devices. An earlier version of this press was shown as a concept press, introduced as Genesis, at drupa 2012. However, this release version highlights some of the Xerox-Impika collaborative efforts, including an increased output speed, new front end controllers, Xerox machine colors (no more green and black) and more.

The Rialto 900 transport ‘is’ the unique feature


Putting a sheeter at the end of a web press is not necessarily a new idea, but offering it all together in one compact package is.



The base press dimensions in the standard configuration are 11’9”L x 5’1”D x 5’3”H (3580 mm x 1550 mm x 1600 mm). The standard configuration includes an unwinder, web cleaner, slitter/cutter with four side trimming, a top tray and a high capacity stacker. This is an impressive footprint since the Xerox Color Press can exceed that length with the addition of a high capacity stacker. One of the ways Xerox is able to keep it small is by not using turn bars as seen in the diagram below.

The Rialto 900 is a single pass duplex, tight web press which runs at up to 157 feet per minute (48 m/m), which translates into 171 one up letter size sheets (160 A4) duplex per minute. The printing width is 8.66” (220mm), with a web width of up to 9.84” (250mm). It supports paper weights from 60 to 160 gsm, on a web roll of up to 3.28 ft (100cm) in diameter.



It is a short paper path, so it includes chiller rollers to condition the paper and a very efficient dryer. It uses a peltier Infra Red (IR) dryer to dry the sheets. The peltier effect is the electric-current-driven transfer of heat from one material to another. It is a lower energy cost solution that can be used for both heating and cooling. It is also called a thermo-electric cooler or TEC for short.

Rialto was designed to be an extensible, evolving platform. At launch it will be available in the base platform as described above. Other integrated finishing options will be added and made available in the future. The recommended monthly print volume is 1.5 million to 5 million letter/A4 impressions per month.

Rialto 900 Imaging

The imaging is based on the proven Impika iEngine technology. This is DoD (Drop on Demand) Piezoelectric technology using the Kyocera KJ4B 600 dpi aqueous inkjet print head. The print resolution is 600x600 x 2-bit, and using Xerox Automated IQ optimization can print 4 levels of grey with 3 different drop sizes, 4, 7, and 11 picoliters. According to Xerox, this gives the output a perceived visual resolution of 1000 x 1000 dpi using the Xerox inkjet optimized screening. This provides smoother gradients and tints, and sharper text and fine lines. It includes 8 print heads per engine for each of the two included engines.

The press supports 4-color printing (CMYK) and only CMYK with pigment inks. You can print black only if desired or a mix, and the consumption model inkjet pricing can make that cost effective. The Xerox inkjet pricing model is a blend of maintenance, color clicks per linear foot, mono clicks per linear foot and ink cost. Many of the production inkjet press manufacturers are moving to this type of pricing model. It is different from what customers are familiar with, in digital toner/ink devices, but brings the pricing closer to the model used in offset and more representative of the output itself. The Rialto is positioned for transaction, transpromo, direct mail and book printing jobs.

It is equipped with an inline inspection camera and supports real-time print head optimization using Clear Pixel Technology, missing jet detection and duplex registration integrity. As is the case with all of the Xerox Impika presses, there is a built in automated head cleaning system that purges, wipes and caps the heads when not in use.

The ink is aqueous based HD (high density) pigment which uses nano particles in conjunction with normal pigments to achieve a significant increase in pigment loading and resultant color density and higher print contrast. It supports a wide variety of media including uncoated, untreated, inkjet treated and inkjet matte coated. Many different types of media have been testing, and the company is continuing to test additional media, with a tested media list available for both the U.S. and European markets.

Front End

The newly designed Xerox Impika Controllers are available as two different options for the Xerox Impika Rialto depending on your requirements. For those who are looking to primarily produce direct mail and commercial work, they can opt for the Xerox Impika PDF Controller. This is based on APPE (Adobe PDF Print Engine) 3.3, and supports PDF 1.7, PDF/X 1a, 3, and 4, as well as PDF V/T.

If requirements include IPDS, Xerox offers the Xerox Impika IPDS Controller which is compliant to the AFP Consortium (IS/3) format. It supports multi-resolution with an encapsulated PDF option. You can also add the APPE option to have full support for both IPDS and the previously mentioned PDF formats.



The press comes with a 24” tablet-style interactive touch screen, similar to what was shown at drupa on some of the other Impika machines displayed.

Imaging upgrade also announced for Xerox Impika Evolution

In addition to the new press announced at Hunkeler, while not specific to the Xerox Rialto 900, Xerox is also adding a VHQ (Very High Quality) imaging option to its top-of-the-line Xerox Impika Evolution Inkjet Press. VHQ mode uses 2 different nozzles to send 2 different drop sizes, instead of 1 nozzle for three drops in a standard grayscale mode. This mode addresses a number of issues. First, if a nozzle jet fails, instead of a white line you get a lower optical density line. Second, since it is firing two different nozzles at the same spot, you can achieve better registration, even with machine acceleration and deceleration. VHQ will be available as a one-time charge for existing installations and an option on new systems.

Conclusion


Xerox has introduced the Rialto 900 at a price point that is designed to lower the barrier of entry for those print service providers that have been sitting the fence about inkjet. Or in their words, “haven’t crossed the bridge,” hence the name Rialto (after the bridge in Italy), moving from offset or digital ink/toner to production inkjet. The base cost is between $600-700 K, but obviously it depends on the configuration and could go higher. As is the case for many of the production inkjet solutions, the per print cost should come in significantly less than cut sheet digital toner presses, with actual costs dependent on the ink coverage.



This introduction could impact page clicks of installed machines and sales of the Xerox digital toner devices, so this is a bold move on their part that both accepts the market realities, while leveraging their technological advantages. It also nicely rounds out the Xerox Impika production inkjet press portfolio which now includes; Xerox Rialto, Xerox Impika Compact, Xerox Impika Reference, and Xerox Impika eVolution Inkjet Press. It wasn’t that long ago that many had written off Xerox in the production inkjet space, yet now they have one of the broadest portfolios in the market.

General availability of the Rialto 900 is mid-summer 2015 in the U.S. and European market, with the installations in the August/September time frame. Developing markets will follow.

Hunkeler Innovation Days was not short of Next Wave production inkjet offerings. In the next article I will be covering the new Canon Océ VarioPrint i300 sheet fed production inkjet press and the new Canon Océ ImageStream 3500 continuous feed press, with other manufacturers’ production inkjet presses following close behind. Stay tuned for more in-depth reviews of these exciting announcements…
Monday, March 23, 2015
As expected, but still exciting to see, another Next Wave production inkjet print technology has been introduced. This one is from HP, and it continues to show that they haven’t been sitting idle in the time since we last took a good look at their production inkjet offerings. Since that last article, they have introduced many new, and field upgradable, updates to their entire Inkjet Web Press product line. From the introduction of their first T-series press, HP has continued to develop and enhance its product lineup, in addition to assuring their customers that the press they purchased was designed to be field upgradable in order to protect their investments. This new introduction of High Definition Nozzle Architecture follows in that same tradition.

With the introduction and installation of the first HP T300 press at O’Neil Data Systems on December 24 2008, HP’s customers have now produced over 90 billion pages, with 36 billion of those in 2014 at a current run rate of nearly four billion pages per month. HP’s tenure in the market and extensive portfolio has provided a cumulative page capacity with the installed machines of about 160 billion pages per year. That includes about 57% of the total inkjet book pages printed world-wide. And while there are about 23 trillion book pages printed globally with offset, HDNA should enhance HP and their customers’ ability to capture more of that total. And the new technology HP has just disclosed will extend the use of HP production inkjet presses into many new application areas that have higher quality requirements.

In the past, HP upgrades focused on increases in speed and productivity for each of their base platforms. While this upgrade also addresses productivity, more importantly it addresses image quality with the introduction of a new print head technology.

HP imaging and the new technology
The big news for HP and its new and existing customer base is a significant upgrade in their print head technology. The new HDNA (High Definition Nozzle Architecture) print head highlights the next generation of HP’s long-standing expertise in thermal inkjet. The HDNA print heads provide an impressive density of 2400 nozzles per inch, per color on single color print head. Each print head contains 21,120 nozzles that are divided between 2 separate chambers with each chamber supplying the ink to 10,560 nozzles. These heads can be used for 2 colors, or a single color with even more nozzle redundancy. All of this is packaged into the same print head backend assembly to enable the existing machines in the field to be upgraded.



However, even more interesting is that the nozzles were architected based on a new dual drop technology. The nozzles are divided into a high drop weight nozzle and a lower drop weight nozzle, which is actually a tiny low drop weight (LDW) nozzle placed in between the high drop weight (HDW) nozzles. This interesting new head configuration brings with it support for 5 levels of grey per pixel, affording better color addressability throughout the color gamut while using the same HP A50 process inks currently in use today. According to Ross Allen, Sr. Technical Specialist with HP’s IHPS (Inkjet High-speed Production Solutions), “with the new HDNA print heads, we print with 1200 nozzles/inch each for LDW and HDW nozzles across the web in Quality Mode, and 600 dpi down the web.  The arrays of LDW and HDW nozzles are slightly staggered since they are interleaved.  In Production mode at 800 fpm, only the HDW nozzles are used.”

If you are familiar with inkjet printing, you know that getting smoothness in tone gradations across the gamut, especially in blends, fleshtones, and in lighter colors without getting that grainy look can be accomplished with two technologies: by adding a capability to print smaller drops or by adding light colors to the mix, ie; Light Cyan, Light Magenta, Light Black, etc., in addition to the standard CMYK. Both techniques produce lower-contrast dots that appear less grainy against the white background than full-density, full-size CMYK dots. What HP has done is take the small drop / large drop approach using the standard four process colors. From the samples I have seen, the blends and fleshtones are exceptional and equal to or better than the output of other production inkjet presses I have seen.

The example below is an HP supplied capture of one of the actual printed samples I received. You can see an enlarged section of a B&W photo image highlighting the tone advantage of the dual drop technology. The packet of samples showed a range of substantive benefits of this new technology.



This advantage also carries over to full color print as seen by the simulated comparison of their current print head output (on the left side of the image below) against the new HDNA output. As a result of the dual drop technology it is able to suppress tone breaks (banding). HDNA’s ability to print more colors directly gives increased color resolution inside the gamut to provide better highlight and shadow detail, perhaps difficult to see here, but evident in the samples I reviewed.


Additionally this new print head architecture allows for an increase in productivity. On the HP T400 platform this translates into 400 fpm in quality mode and 800 fpm in black and color in performance mode, a 33% increase over today’s 600 fpm print capability.

We probably shouldn’t be too surprised by this innovation. Since the introduction of HP Scalable Printing technology in 2006, HP has developed new print head generations using common design rules, materials, and manufacturing processes based on integrated circuit fabrication. This has allowed them to extend the modularity of the design across all of their inkjet products, leveraging R&D efforts across different product lines. They are also one of the only production printer manufacturers that have vertically integrated in-house R&D over the core technology of the press design and manufacturing, including print heads, ink, dryers, media, software and firmware, print servers, image processing, and other solution innovations.

At the core of HP’s imaging process is a thermofluidic process, where “nothing moves but the ink itself.” In the print heads, a tiny heater vaporizes a thin film of ink. A vapor bubble fills the chamber like a piston to force ink through a nozzle. Air bubbles are also forced out on every drop ejection cycle for reliable operation.  And now, with HDNA, HP places 2400 nozzles per column inch. The design includes a fault tolerance system that compensates for any faulty nozzles with multiple nozzles printing in the same dot-row down the web. The presses use HP developed and manufactured water-based pigment inks. HP has also has a MICR option, with a specially designed HP print head and ink.

One of the more important examples is the HP Advanced Image Pipeline Processing that was introduced on their T-series presses early on. This modular electronic architecture is scalable to different press widths, speeds, and mono/color capabilities and allows data to be processed into print head drop commands to support the press speeds. The HDNA print heads will require an update to the Advanced Image Pipeline Processing, which would include new print bars, wiring, and new controller as a part of the upgrade package.

In the T-series production presses, HP uses water-based inks, which have very low VOC emissions, are non-flammable and non-combustible, and with no hazardous air pollutants. Since water is a major component of the ink, it does create the potential for other issues. All inks, even the inks used in offset printing, need to ‘bond’ to the substrate to create a good adhesion. If the bonding didn’t occur, the ink would easily rub off.  Since water-based inks can and will absorb into many non-treated substrates, HP has used an optional ‘Bonding Agent’ inline to pretreat uncoated and coated standard offset papers at every pixel where the pigment ink will print. HP has also added an optional HP Priming Agent for coated media to expand the available substrates that can be run. Unlike Bonding Agent, which gets applied by inkjet heads in the press, the priming agent is a flood coat applied by a roller in a separate coater.

However, in order to support the growing production inkjet market, paper manufacturers are continuing to produce an increasingly wide range of inkjet compatible papers. Currently there are more than 120 ColorPRO papers. These papers do not require the use of a bonding or priming agent, and in fact can produce better reproductions as well. While it can vary depending on coverage, the use of a bonding and priming agents can also lead to lower costs than purchasing pretreated substrates.

Transport Update
HP’s current lineup starts with the T200 family, with a 20.5-inch printable width T200, which prints at up to 400 fpm (ft/minute) in monochrome and 200 fpm in full color, and the T230 is an optional upgrade to print up to 400 fpm in full color. They both support paper widths from 8 to 22 inches with a printable frame length from 11 to 72 inches. In 2014, HP also introduced the T260 Mono Inkjet Web Press with a 24.88” print width and 26” paper path, which prints up to 800 fpm in monochrome.

In the midrange, HP offers the T300 family, which has a 29.1-inch print width on up to a 30-inch wide web. The series includes the T300 which prints up to 400 fpm in full color, the T350 which prints up to 600 fpm in full color, and the T360 which prints at 600 fpm in full color and 800 fpm in monochrome.

At the top of their commercial print line is the T400 family which has a printable width of 41.75 inches on a web width of up to 42 inches. This family consists of the T400, which prints full color at up to either 400 or 600 fpm depending the version chosen. At the top of the line is the T410, which can print full color at up to 600 fpm and monochrome at 800 fpm.

Recently they also introduced a high speed Inkjet Corrugated Packaging Solution. One of the first of its kind, this is a simplex version of the T400 press, printing at up to 600 fpm that supports printing on papers that will be laminated onto a corrugated base.
   
All of HP’s production inkjet presses can print 100% variable data content at full press speed. The T200 family supports media weights from 60-215 gsm, while the others support 60-350 gsm.

Front End
The front end driving these presses is the HP SmartStream Production Elite Print Server. Since HP is also a server manufacturer, the system is based on its own hardware architecture. At the heart is a Global Graphics Harlequin RIP, which can support most of the standard PDF/X formats, PDF/VT, and AFP/IPDS with a third-party solution. The ability to manage the press, as well as any incoming static or variable jobs at machine rated speeds requires a very powerful and scalable computing system.

Depending upon which press you choose as well as your workflow levels and job requirements from mono text to full-color images, the digital front end can be configured (and upgraded) to meet the most demanding requirements with the capability to install the number of  servers based on the customer’s job type – from simple commercial jobs to short-run publishing to complex variable data printing applications.

Conclusion
HP will be announcing their first beta site later this year for an HDNA press. They expect the new presses to be available in 2016, with implementations of the other families and upgrades availability following close behind. All previously released models, except the T260, which was designed for monochrome printing, are field-upgradable. HP believes their T-series presses should have a production life in excess of 10 years.

With the introduction of HDNA technology, HP has addressed many of the concerns of those looking to migrate from offset or toner. From a quality standpoint, this provides much more vibrant colors with a higher optical density. It also produces much smoother halftones and blends, something that existing T series clients have been clamoring for.
Recently HP announced that Quad/Graphics has over 20 HP Color Inkjet Web Presses in their 3-year transformational plan, with the first five presses to be installed in 2015. One can only assume that this new HDNA technology played a part in their decision.

It seems like the pace of new Next Wave Production Inkjet press introductions is picking up. In fact, I expect that there will be more introductions around the Hunkeler Innovation Days event later this month. Stay tuned for more exciting announcements…

Thursday, February 12, 2015
In a continuation of the Next Wave of new production inkjet presses and technology series, we cover Super Web Digital, a ‘Made in America’ press manufacturer, which has introduced two new web press platforms based on new Memjet inkjet imaging technology. What makes this interesting is that both Super Web and Memjet have introduced new technology in these products, bringing both of their offerings to a new level.

Super Web has been manufacturing and integrating press solutions since 1971, when the company introduced its first business form print system. In 1975 they introduced Commercial and Direct Mail presses, and in 1992 Variable Print Size Presses were introduced in configurations that could be ordered for printing from one to twelve colors. They started early on “developing a better Didde press.” Today, the goal is to “create world-class presses, with super-fast make-ready speed, at a price capable of fitting into virtually every investment budget.” Super Web manufactures the presses and distributes its own parts at its plant in Babylon, NY, and boasts an installed base of over 3,000 Super Web units around the globe. The company has a reputation for building equipment that is reliable and very user serviceable.

Briefly, Memjet is headquartered in San Diego CA, with offices in Australia, Ireland, Taipei, Singapore, and Boise. To date, Memjet’s 30+ OEM partners include; Canon/Océ, Xerox, RTI Digital and Xante, who have produced wide format products; Colordyne, who has produced table top and narrow web label presses; and Delphax with its B2 sheetfed press. Continuing the momentum, Super Web has introduced the SuperWeb DCOMM Commercial Presses, and the SuperWeb Webjet 280C Label Press. With the introduction of its two new platforms, Super Web Digital has moved from conventional print to inkjet.

Transport
Super Web Digital is not new to manufacturing web printing transports including conventional and servo-based drives. Of course the transports for these new presses had to be re-engineered to support the new imaging technology, since they no longer need to drive cylinders and ink trains. Super Web employs a tight web design, not only within each print station, but throughout the system, from the unwinder through to the delivery of a roll, cut printed sheets, or stacks.

The transports uses a modular design with ¾” steel side plates, each supporting one or more functions of printing, cutting, drying, or one of the many other optional finishing features that are available. It employs a servo web guide before each print engine to assure precise placement of images on the web, as well as automated servo and PLC controls for system management and media sensing for label gap, cut sheet, notch and black mark. As a result of the modular nature of the design, Super Web Digital press configurations can easily add slitting, web merge, die-cutting, sheeting, punch, perfing, and rewind functions as well as intelligent stacking modules to create an in-line production system.

Currently at the top end of Super Web’s commercial print platform, the DCOMM 200 can perfect on media up to 17.28 inches wide (2x the Memjet printable width of 8.64”), using CMYK plus a spot color on each side. The DCOMM 100 is a half-size press that can print up to four colors plus an additional spot color on various types of media up to 8.64 inches wide. They also offer duplex models the DCOMM 200d, 100d with the same specs as above. They both print at an impressive rated speed of 275 fpm at 1600x1375 dpi. Since it is a tight web design, it supports a wide range of media options from very light weight up to 110lb offset for sheeting and even heavier for rewind, with a maximum media width of 17.5 inches on the 200 series. As is the case in many production inkjet systems, it is recommended that you use inkjet compatible media or pre-coat.



Since Super Web Digital builds these to order, they can be configured to your specific requirements including options for a web cleaner, dryers and a variety of finishing options as previously mentioned, including UV or aqueous coating. The system supports 10, 55, and 210 liter ink tanks.

One of their beta clients, High Cotton USA, located in Birmingham, AL., specializes in multi-channel “business product bulk mail” and transactional applications. This seems like a sweet spot for the current DCOMM offerings.


 
The 280C WEBJet Label press is designed for label production. It supports the addition of inline die cutting, embossing, lamination, and other label enhancements. It is designed as a single printhead width press at the present time, so the imaging width is 8.64 inches. It has a maximum roll width of 280mm and roll diameter of 750mm. It can run at speeds of up to 225 m/min depending on media and finishing. Super Web also produces a Model 100R with the Aspen print head that can be added to a Flexo press.

Imaging
The new Memjet Aspen production class print engine uses the same ‘Waterfall’ inkjet technology as its predecessor heads. The new head unit is still centered around an 8.77” wide printhead that can deliver up to 700 million 1-2 picoliter drops per second. It prints through 70,400 nozzles at 275 fpm at 1600 x 1375 dpi, and will shortly support up to 500fpm at 1600x750 dpi. Because it is a full letter page wide, Memjet claims the printhead virtually eliminates the head-stitching artifacts typically found on pages printed by other systems using narrow inkjet printheads. The inks and drop size allow significant ink laydown and quick drying on inkjet compatible papers. The ink densities and resultant print contrast provide an impressive production print product.

The big difference between this new head unit design compared to the older one is that this one uses a single head per color up to 5 colors, while the older one combined the 5 ink channels on one head. The ink heads are now installed on blades, one for each of 5 colors in a single unit.


 
The printheads are easily replaced by the operator. Since each ink delivery system (IDS) is completely self-contained on a blade, your operator can swap an entire IDS in minutes. This makes for ease of maintenance, since the single head blades, along with their corresponding electronics can be removed and replaced individually.


 
The 5 blades with the printheads are mounted in the Memjet print engine. It has an integrated automatic head maintenance chassis so the operator will rarely have to manually clean the printheads. In conjunction with the new head unit and Memjet’s philosophy of ease of operator maintenance, the print engine unit has been designed to provide a simple mount for removal and replacement. This allows the operator to quickly swap out a replacement unit on the press and keep running while you are working on the removed unit. You can also have an extra maintenance chassis for offline diagnostics, maintenance and repair of the head unit or IDS and printheads.

Like the older head design, it is a fixed head which requires minimal warm-up time and prints in one pass without moving back and forth across the sheet as some other printheads do. This new Aspen design has also increased the head life considerably. It is estimated that head life is extended by 2x-3x. Memjet has newer technology in development that should extend it even further. Real-world printhead life expectancy is based on the volume of print and ink used in a production print environment.

The basic consumables are the ink and the printheads. Currently Memjet inks are water-based dye inks that are specifically designed to work with Memjet printheads, although they will be releasing a pigment ink in mid-2016. This will probably require some upgrade in the inkjet head system, although with the new blade and print engine head unit architecture it shouldn’t be that difficult. Of course time will tell. We are also starting to hear about the Aspen print engine technology finding its way to Colordyne and would expect to see it appear on Memjet OEM products.

Front End
The DFEs for the Super Web Digital presses are supplied by Xitron. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Xitron, they were founded in 1977, and have been one of the leaders in supplying RIP and workflow solutions to CTP and Press manufacturers for years.
The Xitron front end includes a Harlequin RIP with a pipeline workflow solution to create individual workflows, and supports a range of file formats and workflow tools including page imposition, job queuing management, file viewing, and other prepress functions through a touch screen. Operators use a simple drag and drop techniques for custom workflow creation.

Conclusion
The Next Wave of Production Inkjet offerings have been providing print service providers with some new opportunities for transitioning from Offset and even electrophotographic processes to inkjet. Of course, individual requirements should drive purchasing decisions and not technology itself. As we have seen recently, the bigger players like Canon, Kodak, Screen and Ricoh have all stepped up their game and products in this area. It is interesting to see smaller players like Super Web Digital bring lower cost, more tailored products like this to market. Undoubtedly, it is also a testament to the Memjet model of supplying easy-to-integrate printhead technology to support these efforts.

Finally, now that we have started a new year, we know that there are more Next Wave production inkjet solution announcements looming on the horizon, and we are all anxious to see what the other vendors will be announcing in this space, so stay tuned…


Friday, December 05, 2014
Find part 1 here.

There have been many new digital label and packaging presses released recently, and there are more to coming in the near future. However, these new digital presses will never reach optimal production levels or support and drive the new market requirements, without new standards and workflows. The GWG (Ghent Workgroup) has been diligently working to support this need. In part 2 of this article, we look at support for multiple versions, languages and roles; and extensive non-content and finishing best practices in support of the goal of an exchangeable standard PDF file format.

Digital label and packaging production is on the minds of a lot of equipment vendors and print service providers today. This is primarily due to the potential opportunities driven by evolving market demands. According to the recent Emerging Technologies for Packaging Innovation study, published by the Graphic Communication Institute at Cal Poly, there is good reason for this.

According to the report, “CPGs (Consumer Product Groups) show no sign of letting up on SKU proliferation, thus exacerbating the impact of short runs on the supply chain. A quest for more product variations, sizes, tailored messaging, and promotions were all indicated as key drivers behind SKU proliferation. … CPGs also show a solid understanding of the impact of SKU proliferation on converters, the technology they use, and seek-out those that can offer a competitive edge with new technology.” In fact, the report continues, “71 percent of CPGs responded they actively seek converters/printers with emerging printing capabilities, such as digital printing.”

However, all of those involved in the packaging supply chain understand that there are challenges. Converters admit to “faster time-to-market requirements by CPGs placing stress on the existing infrastructure. … One hurdle to digital adoption is how fast print manufacturers can help CPGs approve the transition to new print processes for each and every material/packaging application. Nearly 85 percent agree that when moving from traditional methods of printing to digital, re-approval of all packaging will be required. This is an area of opportunity that technology and service providers will need to address.”

In the rush to facilitate the changes and the new speed to market needed for production packaging processes, PDF showed some early promise, although the available solutions were, and currently are, workflows that are proprietary to each vendor. In 2003, the GWG began working on the use of PDF and the surrounding best practices required for packaging production. These included special color handling (covered in the last article); support for multiple versions, languages and roles; and specifications for an extensive range of finishing requirements discussed later in this article. The goal of this work was to create a single ‘exchangeable standard’ PDF file that could be used for the communication of design, regulatory, and production information in one file for all types of packaging print production, including gravure, flexographic, offset and digital print.

It has taken the GWG until today to fully identify and develop these requirements and push most of those requirements through the various ISO (International Standards Organization) working groups to get the base PDF and PDF/X file formats ready for the future of packaging production. While ISO still has some work ahead of it to fully deliver on the requirements set out by the GWG, it is getting very close to that point. And the exciting news is that the various packaging workflow software vendors will be starting to introduce the results of this work in their products shortly.

The last article looked at some of the new developments surrounding color identification and handling in standards and best practices around digital print production for labels and packaging. We now continue to look at two other areas that are being addressed in the work being done: Versioning, and Processing steps beyond print content.

Versioning and production processes
Labels and packaging today increasingly requires the production of products in multiple versions. Those can include multiple language versions, targeted messaging to disparate consumer groups, products that are sold in a variety of color choices (e.g., beauty products), etc. The design tools used to create these, like Adobe Illustrator, were developed to use layers to enable the designer to work on the consistent base artwork with layers to support the versioning. This eliminates the need to use a single file for each version, especially since there are usually corrections up to the time of print on the base as well as the versions. The design tools and processes are fairly common, but after the design process it all starts to fall apart.

Once a designer’s work is finished, the processes of circulating the file for approvals, changes, prepress, die creation, etc., are now handled in a variety of non-standard ways. Using a linear process gives content owners and producers the security of having only one iteration of a file in the pipeline, although it takes a long time to work its way through that pipeline. And since all of the layers are in the file have no apparent common structure, each recipient is forced to dig through them all and to look at things that may have no relevance to their specific roles. Distributing multiple files tailored to roles, and even worse, multiple files with multiple iterations, can be faster in theory, but can open the door to mistakes.

To address this issue and the next one I will discuss, the GWG has worked with many vendors, users, and standards bodies to create a common structure to support the identification of these various layers, and to create a structure that allows for a more organized way to support user roles and interaction with the layers. Technically this is done through the use of a couple of PDF features: OCG (Optional Content Group) and OCCD (Optional Content Configuration Dictionary). These are very powerful features available in PDF, and the GWG has harnessed them to add structure to the processes. This structure, combined with the ubiquitous nature of PDF and the availability of PDF-based workflow tools, offers the potential for much more interoperable, automated and secure workflows. These best practices that were developed by the GWG to utilize these PDF features are now on track to be formalized as an ISO standard.

Processing steps beyond print content
In packaging and labels, what you see on the label or package, in many cases, is more than just print. In most cases, there is at least some varnish and perhaps a die outline. However, once you start to look deeper into the entire process, you begin to realize how much more needs to be identified and managed. Underlay colors like opaque white on foil or other flexible media; structural information beyond the die outline; and scoring, stamping, folding and gluing are all important process functions. Historically designers may have used different colors and randomly named layers to communicate this information, but as in the case of versioning, there were no standards or best practices to support this. Therefore, the existing workflow process does not support ease of use, interoperability or automation.

Other areas that extend beyond print content include global accessibility requirements for packaging, which are becoming more stringent; for example Braille, which is increasingly being mandated on certain types of packaging. Additionally, as the complexity of requirements for packaging and non-packaging print processes increases with the use of security features and interactivity tools like holograms, NFC, etc., the number of inherent variables will only increase and become a more important part of packaging design and print production processes.

Next steps
The work done to date and that to be done in the future around these areas by the GWG are not only timely, they are critical to support the requirements of digital packaging and print production in the future.

Currently the GWG is working with the vendor and user members to finalize some materials for industry wide distribution and education. In addition to the GWG specifications and ISO standards work, the GWG is producing be white papers detailing how this all works. The GWG will also be tracking what products are available to support this important work. You can keep up with this on the Packaging Sub Committee page on the GWG website. As a CPG, converter, or printer, you should also contact your software and equipment vendors to see when you can begin to take advantage of this exciting and important work.

If you are interested in participating in the work that the GWG does, we welcome your involvement and membership. See the GWG membership page for more information.


More information
As a part of the educational process, Steve Carter, Senior VP of Technology at Phototype and Co-Chair of the GWG Packaging Subcommittee, will be presenting a deeper look at the GWG Packaging Workflow efforts at the Printing Industries of America Color Conference – December 6-9.

In the next article, we will continue to look at the processes and solutions that you can use to optimize your business and production workflows.

Remember, if you have any topics you think are important and would like us to cover during the balance of this series, please let us know! Or if you are a print service provider with a unique, integrated end-to-end workflow and would like to be featured, we’d love to hear from you.

For more detail on some ways to automate and transform your workflows, download an informative whitepaper, "Automating and Optimizing a Book Production Workflow."

You can contact David via email at david@zwang.com.




Friday, October 31, 2014
Since 2012, production inkjet technology has continued developing. While machine speeds have remained fairly static with minor improvements here and there, as we expected, image quality has made some good progress. This progress can be primarily attributed to continued development in inkjet heads and the enhanced manufacturing of inkjet inks using nano pigment grinds. With the increase in resolution and even more importantly, the increase in pigment loading and dispersion on the sheet, we are seeing a much wider use of inkjet in higher quality applications like Direct Mail, Commercial Print, Labels and Packaging.

Up to now, many production inkjet manufacturers have been ‘tweaking’ their existing products; however, we are now starting to see newly redesigned offerings. The latest example of this is the recently announced Océ ImageStream 3500 from Canon (aka Océ JetStream 3500 GA in Japan).

Transport
This new ImageStream 3500 press transport takes a 30 inch wide roll, and has its roots in the successful JetStream Wide press. It prints 4/4 running at 262 fpm at a resolution of 1200x1200 dpi or 525 fpm at a resolution of 1200x600 dpi. It has been designed to ensure relatively low energy consumption, and has the most compact footprint in its class.

Canon claims that this new press can run almost all stocks, including standard offset coated, without any bonding agent or primer. Of course, the implications of this are significant in reduced media cost and increased availability. According to some calculations presented by Canon, the potential cost savings on 3000 MT of media use per year using conventional papers versus inkjet treated or optimized papers can range from about $1MM to $7MM/yr. Using standard offset media not only reduces cost, but also creates opportunities for many new applications, like high quality books, brochures, magazines and personalized catalogs, and introduces efficiencies into shops that have both offset and production inkjet presses. Canon has already tested many conventional offset stocks as you can see in the graphic below:



Imaging
Océ uses the 4.25 in. piezoelectric drop on demand (DoD) Kyocera KJ4B-Z print heads. These are the native 1200 dpi heads we originally highlighted during our drupa coverage in 2012. They are reported to be the fastest native 1200 dpi piezo printheads available today for production print applications. But resolution and speed are only part of the story. These heads support multi-level droplet sizes of 1.3pl to 2.8pl, which further enhances the ability to balance higher pigment laydown for richer mid-tones and shadows and still enable smoother highlights. To take advantage of these new print heads, Canon developed a new, albeit more expensive, aqueous pigment ink. This new ink brings a higher print contrast as a result of the higher pigment concentration, bringing the final product appearance closer to offset (the benchmark). They have also added micron-level print head alignment for tighter control.

Front End
The ImageStream 3500 is supported by the scalable Océ SRA® MP controller, which is used across its production print product lines. Combined with the Océ Prisma workflow software, it can prepare and process most input formats. These include Adobe APPE for native PDF processing, as well as support for AFP/IPDS and PCL.

Conclusion
I originally looked at the Océ production inkjet line in 2011, during the early stages of their acquisition and integration with Canon, and it is obvious that they have not sat still in developing new technologies. The new Océ ImageStream 3500 joins the ColorStream and JetStream, VarioStream, and the upcoming InfiniStream production printer series based on inkjet and toner technologies, giving Canon (under the Océ brand) “the broadest product range for continuous feed printing with a production capacity of up to 30,000 B2 format sheets per hour in black & white and full color.” The new Niagra sheetfed press and the InfiniStream folding carton press are both coming close to release, and the ImageStream 3500 will be available the beginning of 2015. While we expect many of the other vendors to introduce new high speed production devices in the near future, the ‘new’ Canon/Océ marriage seems to be bearing lots of offspring. The ImageStream 3500 is projected to sell for between $3MM and $4MM, but pricing will, of course, vary based on configuration.

We are anxious to see what the other vendors will be announcing in this space. Stay tuned…
Thursday, October 30, 2014
In June 2014 Kodak announced its next generation Kodak PROSPER 6000 series presses, currently the fastest production inkjet press in the market. For Kodak, this is a new milestone on a number of fronts. First of all, there were those who wrote them off before and during their bankruptcy proceedings, and this is a statement to those doubters that Kodak is here for the long term, and will continue to innovate. Additionally this ‘clean sheet’ design has apparently been in development for a while, so the chances are that they have other new developments in the pipeline as well.

The last time we looked at Kodak production inkjet offerings, I looked at its entire portfolio of Versamark and PROSPER presses. Since that time, like many other manufacturers, Kodak has tweaked its existing product offerings. Before the release, the PROSPER 5000XLi was its flagship color production inkjet platform. Its entire PROSPER line, which includes the 5000Xli color press, the monochrome PROSPER 1000, and the very successful PROSPER S print head offerings, have produced more than 40 billion pages to date. This new press platform takes PROSPER to a whole new level. As you can see from the image below, it even looks entirely different than previous PROSPER presses.

Transport
The real innovation in these new presses is the ‘clean sheet’ redesign of the transport that currently supports speeds of up to 1000 fpm on matte and uncoated papers. This is a significant increase over the 650 fpm limit of the PROSPER 5000Xli, and the transport is now finally poised to support the much higher speed potential of the Stream inkjet head technology.

The new PROSPER 6000 series comes in two base products, with both U and L space saving configuration options. The PROSPER 6000C is designed for commercial print applications with high ink coverage, and the PROSPER 6000P is designed for publishing applications like books and newspapers that typically use light weight papers and low to medium ink coverage. The new design looks more like a typical offset web press, with individual color units. This was done to take advantage of the many lessons learned in conventional web press development, and an easier transition from offset to inkjet for customers. In addition, the design has enabled Kodak to add enhanced drying into the platform, and provides easier service access. This new system includes air-cooled NIR (Near InfraRed) dryers and internal chillers for greater, and more energy efficient, drying. Kodak estimates that if you are printing at about 30% coverage, you are actually injecting up to 3 liters of water per minute onto the paper web. As we have previously outlined in past articles, if you are putting water on paper, you need to get it back out again as quickly as possible, and this system does just that.

The platform operates with a new tight web in and out design to support the increased speeds. The system includes Kodak IPS (Intelligent Print System), a camera-based system that scans, measures and compensates for shrinking, stretching, register, etc. It also detects imaging streaks and jet anomalies. Kodak has added a large diameter high grip, full width nip drive for better front to back registration, fixed position rollers, and air assisted turn bars for quicker changeovers.  It supports paper widths from 8 in. to 25.5 in., and has an optional inline auto splicer to reduce downtime. While both PROSPER presses can print 4/4 or monochrome at speeds up to 1000 fpm on matte or uncoated paper, heavy weight glossy and silk stock should be printed at 650 fpm on the PROSPER 6000C to enable sufficient drying. In fact, the system was designed with multiple selectable paper paths to accommodate the needs of heavy coverage and ink drying as seen below:

As a result of this new transport design, as well as newly formulated nano pigment grind inks, the PROSPER 6000 now offers a greater color gamut, higher print contrast, and the ability to print on a much wider range of substrates. This includes uncoated, coated and glossy papers. Kodak has removed the pre-treat IOS (Image Optimizer Station) station from the base configuration since it couldn’t keep up with the new platform speeds. They still advise that pretreated inkjet papers will provide better quality imaging, although they feel that the combination of better imaging, faster drying, and the greater availability of pre-treated inkjet papers should address market needs. However, Kodak will offer an offline option if requirements demand it.

Imaging
The Kodak Stream print technology has long been one of the shining stars in Kodak’s intellectual property portfolio. This new PROSPER 6000 series was redesigned to take advantage of the exceptionally fast Kodak CI (continuous inkjet) Stream inkjet technology. Kodak has not increased the printhead resolution beyond what was in the 5000Xli, but the newly formulated inks will create a higher print contrast and better looking image.

As a refresher, Kodak Stream uses MEMS technology to let the printheads deliver an accurate, predictable ink droplet. The benefit to using these heads over the Piezo heads used in some other DoD systems is much better control over the size and accurate placement of each of those drops. By applying a regular pulse to heaters surrounding each of the nozzles in the printhead, the ink is stimulated into breaking into fine droplets. The nozzles fire a continuous stream of ink very fast, at high pressure, allowing the heads to be placed further from the substrate, supporting a wider range of media thicknesses. Kodak also uses air deflection to direct the non-printing drops into troughs for recycling and reuse.

With DoD systems, the drop generation and print drop frequency are the same. However, with continuous inkjet, there is a difference between the drop generation frequency and print drop frequency. Stream continuously generates drops up to 480,000 drops per second. Regular head cleaning should provide for hundreds to thousands of hours of print reliability. If the heads can’t be cleaned, they are refurbished by Kodak. Kodak currently has two adaptations of the Stream head: The S-series prints at up to 600 x 600 dpi at speeds up to 3000 fpm, and while Kodak doesn’t publish the resolution specs on the PROSPER press, they claim it prints at the equivalent of up to 200 lpi.

Front End
The new PROSPER 6000 series uses the scalable Kodak 700 Print Manager DFE to drive it. The 700 accepts all of the necessary file formats including AFP, IPDS, IJPDS, PDF, PS, PPML, VPS, and supports JDF and JMF control and communication. Currently it includes Adobe APPE 2.6, but will be upgraded to Adobe APPE 3.2 early next year, which will give it better and faster support for PDF/VT as well as much more efficient PDF processing.
The Kodak 700 Print Manager is one of the components of the Kodak Unified Workflow, which includes Kodak PRINERGY offering Rules Based Automation (RBA), previously covered in many of my workflow articles.

Conclusion
The PROSPER 6000C is projected to sell for approximately $3.6MM, while the 6000P will sell for approximately 3.2MM, but prices will vary based on configuration. Kodak has stated that there is no planned increase in either ink (currently the lowest cost in the market) or printhead refurbishment costs over its current pricing.

Kodak has now raised the bar in production inkjet presses. This new Kodak PROSPER 6000 series will continue to share the stage with the existing PROSPER and Versamark products, but we assume that there might be some thinning of the lines in the future. However, this new platform is an impressive design, and one that should help bring the company back into the game. There are currently two beta presses in the field, and the team has been learning a lot from these installations. Kodak anticipates disclosing the names of those sites before the end of June.

Now we are even more anxious to see what the other vendors will be announcing in this space. Stay tuned…
Thursday, October 30, 2014
As expected the next generation of production inkjet press releases are coming fast and furiously. Now we will look at the new Ricoh Pro VC60000.

The predecessor platform of this new press, the InfoPrint 5000, was originally marketed by the IBM Printing Systems Division prior to its staged acquisition by Ricoh starting in 2007 and will continue to be marketed by Ricoh for the foreseeable future. The InfoPrint platform was one of the earlier entrants into the production inkjet space, and has been very successful for IBM, Ricoh and Screen, who was a partner in the machine’s development. Screen marketed it as the Truepress Jet520, but essentially the two presses were cut from the same cloth. Even with the many enhancements Screen and Ricoh each incorporated over time, the platform was ready for a refresh. It’s not just that other production inkjet press manufacturers were entering the market, it’s that the underlying technology, in print heads, ink, and media, have moved production inkjet capabilities to new levels and users were interested in using the technology for higher coverage applications beyond the transactional applications for which it was originally designed. New developments across the vendor base have now extended the reach of production inkjet into higher quality applications, furthering the migration of volume from offset to digital.

While the InfoPrint platform, with its three different models, is strong in Transaction and Book applications, this new platform is designed to address Commercial Print, full color Books, Marketing Collateral and Direct Mail. While Ricoh expects this to coexist with the 5000 series for a while, make no mistake, the new Pro VC60000 is very much a Ricoh machine. As one of the largest print equipment manufacturers in the world, Ricoh has significant resources that the company has been able to take advantage of with the development of this new platform. It should also be noted that Ricoh has continued to partner with Screen in the development of this new line of inkjet presses.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that Ricoh has an extensive line of color and monochrome toner based presses as well as a wide format portfolio.

Ricoh Production Inkjet technology
The older InfoPrint platform used Seiko Epson inkjet heads and Epson inks; however, this new platform uses Ricoh’s own print head technology. Many may not realize that Ricoh has been an inkjet print head manufacturer for about 30 years, with more than 20 years of developing and manufacturing piezo heads. However most of those heads have found their way into other manufacturers’ products in industrial and specialty printing applications, including wide format, textiles, 3D modeling and laminate printing applications.

The implementation of the Ricoh print heads on the Pro VC60000 is very interesting. While all production inkjet manufacturers have had to balance resolution and speed with cost, Ricoh has approached this implementation in a fairly unique way. The aqueous-based pigment heads are rated at native 1200 dpi, which is more than sufficient to address the quality needs of commercial print applications. However, the way they achieve this is by creating a print head module comprised of an array of 600 dpi heads, placed in scanning direction to make print head adjustment easy. This achieves the currently rated 50 meters/minute 1200 x 1200 dpi resolution on the Pro VC60000, while maintaining the ability to increase the speed in the future  and keep costs down. It has the requisite print head cleaning and capping system to ensure quick startup and imaging consistency. The press can also be operated at 70m/m at 1200 x 600dpi, or 120m/m at 600/600 dpi. Additionally, now that Ricoh is no longer compelled to use Epson inks, the cost of ink should be more competitive as well.

The Press Transport
The newly designed transport of the Pro VC60000 is modular, making it flexible for many applications and installation requirements. It is designed to produce ~40 million duplex impressions/ month.



While the Pro VC60000, like most of the new generation of production inkjet\ presses, can run a wide variety of conventional offset and inkjet treated papers, Ricoh has chosen to include an Under-Coat unit that currently supports a flood coat on 1 or 2 sides of the media. Additionally, there is an optional Protector-Coat unit, which can be activated on the available 5th cartridge station to improve ‘smear resistance.’ It is currently applied to the whole page at a lower coverage, but I believe that it may allow spot coating at some point in the future. This combination of pre- and post-print units allows the press to support wide range of media from uncoated to offset glossy, at paper weights from 40-250 gsm at widths of 165-520 mm.

Ricoh’s ink cartridge system consists of two 10-liter disposable containers per color and sits independently from the engine. Inks can be changed on the fly, without stopping the press, and the machine automatically switches to the new cartridge when the other one is empty

Ricoh Front End
Ricoh designed a completely new digital front end (DFE) for the Pro VC60000. The open standards architecture supports multiple print streams, including PS, PDF, PDF/VT, AFP/IPDS and JDF/JMF. It uses the Adobe PDF Print Engine (APPE) in addition to some of its own core technology to support legacy AFP/IPDS formats.



The Pro VC60000 has a new, user friendly, browser based interface to control the press. which can even be accessed remotely. In addition to all of the press control and status information, it also includes an enhanced job preview that shows the RIP’d file and its individual color separations. It supports new color management functions that can address differences in media side and file object type as well as spot color dictionaries. It also h imposition capabilities, including saddle stitch, cut & stack, and trim marks.

Of course, in addition to the new DFE, Ricoh has an extensive line of TotalFlow workflow solutions in its portfolio which integrates nicely. We will be covering the new TotalFlow announcements, including enhancements to Process Director and Process Director Express, as well as the new TotalFlow Batch Builder and TotalFlow Path solutions in a future article.

While this is the first of the new Ricoh-designed production inkjet machines, I would expect to see more models from the company in the future that will take advantage of the many technologies it has at its disposal.

There are many more production inkjet presses being released at Graph Expo, and I will be covering each of them over the next few months. Stay tuned…
Thursday, October 30, 2014
In this articles, and more to come in future, we'll the processes and products that can lead to the transformation of your current workflows

Digital print technology and processes have been revolutionizing various fields of print production for years, and while significant digital print growth is projected to continue for many years to come, one area in which the market has been slower to adopt digital print production is labels and packaging. Some of this delay can be attributed to the limited availability of the requisite digital print technology. Many of these hardware requirements are rapidly being addressed through the introduction of new digital presses using varying imaging technologies, including dry and liquid toner, inkjet, latex, etc. However, much of the delay can also be attributed to the special requirements of the packaging market. These included special color handling; support for multiple versions, languages and roles; and specifications for an extensive range of finishing requirements.

The GWG (Ghent Workgroup) has been working on solutions to address the special needs of digital print production workflows since 2001, primarily, though not exclusively, through the development of best practice workflows based on the use of the PDF file format. Some of this work has been brought to the market in the form of the PDF/X-Plus specifications and setup files that are tailored to PDF creation and preflight for different applications.  Since the goal was to create a standard exchangeable format, the first obstacle was the state of the PDF format itself at that time. PDF/X had initially been developed in 1999 to address standardized print production workflows; however, its initial focus was on publication work, and at that time packaging production wasn’t even on the radar. As the development of the PDF format and the respective PDF/X print focused versions have evolved over the years, support for many other print production requirements have been added.

While production processes for packaging, even through the use of PDF files, started to show some early promise, they were and currently still are all workflows that are proprietary to each vendor. In 2003, the GWG started working on the use of PDF and surrounding best practices for packaging production. The ambitious goal of this work was focused on creating a single ‘exchangeable standard’ PDF file that could be used for the communication of design, regulatory, and production information in one file for all types of packaging print production, including gravure, flexographic, offset and digital print. In 2006, the GWG released its first Packaging Specification, which was updated in 2012. This supports a standardized PDF file design and delivery exchange format, but only covers only a very limited set of the envisioned functionality.

It has taken the GWG until today to fully identify and develop these requirements and push most of those requirements through the various ISO (International Standards Organization) working groups to get the base PDF and PDF/X file format ready for the future of packaging production. While the ISO still has some work ahead of it to fully deliver on the requirements set out by the GWG, it is getting very close to that point. And the exciting news is that the various packaging workflow software vendors will be introducing the results of this work in their products shortly.

The work done to date to advance the PDF format in support of the GWG vision falls into three basic areas. Special Color handling with Spectral values; support for multiple versions, languages and roles; and extensive non-content and finishing standards.

Special Colors
One of the first requirements in packaging and brand management is centered around color. Whether it is Coca Cola vs. Pepsi red or IBM vs. Intel blue, color is critical for packaging production. When Adobe initially developed PDF, the color needs had not been anticipated beyond the support of CMYK, RGB, LAB and ‘named colors’ (e.g., Pantone colors). CMYK process equivalents don’t really supply a solution to the needs, and while named colors are one way of describing special color information, it really isn’t a standardized way for the needs of blind exchange in packaging production. In packaging production, the box, label, bag, etc., can be printed on various types of media across a brand or product family, including paper, poly, metallic substrates, etc., and it can be printed using offset, gravure, flexographic, digital and in many cases all of the above. Even the types of inks being used affect the color outcome.  Taking all of this into consideration, there can be no argument that in packaging, color definition is critical.

When the GWG started looking at color in packaging production, it ran into one of the first limitations of the PDF format. How do you communicate these special colors in a way that meets the exchangeable standard designation and supports all of these variables? It was determined that the best way to define color was with spectral values. This would allow for the differentiation and adaptation across substrate and process exchange needs. First the GWG looked to Adobe to supply a spectral solution within PDF. The PDF format is fairly ubiquitous in digital life these days, and supports a wide range of document exchange types, but rewriting the core color handling within PDF to satisfy the needs of the packaging community was not something Adobe was willing to undertake.

As a result, in 2009 the GWG started looking at CxF (Color Exchange Format), an XML-based technology framework initially developed by X-Rite in 2002 to exchange color information. Investigation revealed that there was a way for CxF data to be embedded and referenced in a PDF file. In CxF, the spectral color information, in addition to other information about color matching, viewing conditions, etc., could be accurately communicated. This was a significant development, and the timing was fortuitous, since X-Rite was introducing CxF to the ISO for consideration as a standard. The GWG enlisted the support of the ICC (International Color Consortium) and the appropriate ISO TC130 working groups to help push this concept into a set of eventual standards. As a result, ISO 17972- Parts 1-4, was developed to support the use of CxF in production color data exchange from capture/definition through exchange.

Of course, this work will not only benefit packaging production workflows; it has a much broader application as well.

For more information on the new CxF standards, register for the FTA webinar; The New Color Exchange Format: Everything You Need to Know about ISO 17972-4.

For a deeper understanding of the GWG Packaging Workflow efforts in general, register for the Printing Industries of America Color Conference – December 6-9.

In the next article, Part 2, we will continue to look at what the future of these new exchangeable and standardized packaging workflows will look like, and take a closer look at the support for multiple versions, languages, roles and the extensive finishing needs of the growing digital packaging production market.

For more detail on some ways to automate and transform your workflows, download an informative whitepaper, "Automating and Optimizing a Book Production Workflow."

You can contact David via email at david@zwang.com.
About Me
David Zwang

David Zwang, travels around the globe helping companies increase their productivity, margins and market reach. With over 40 years of industry experience, David specializes in process analysis, and strategic development of firms in the fields of publishing, design, premedia, and printing across the globe. He began in the graphic arts as a commercial photographer, and has since founded and sold several prepress and printing operations. His experience includes expertise in pre-media and cross media publishing, with an extensive background in digital, offset, and flexo printing processes. His expertise in production optimization, strategic business planning, market analysis, and related services to companies in the vertical media communications market has transformed many businesses.

Please contact him at david@zwang.com

 

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