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Diving into Digital Workflows

(April 2013) posted on Tue May 07, 2013

Key features to consider when assessing workflow-management software and its role in digital imaging.


By Bill Hartman

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Challenge: Discover problems in a file before it’s too late—and on press Most artwork, as you know, is delivered as PDF files. If not, and you have the original application, you can always create the PDF file quickly in house. A PDF file provides the print shop with at least some standardization, and it is typically the file from which the RIP processes artwork.

Unfortunately, when receiving a customer file, you have no idea how the file was built. You can ask your customers for a print-ready file, but they don’t always know what it means to deliver a perfect, print-ready file. Your experience will tell you all things that can go wrong—things that you should check before going to print. In this way you can minimize the risk of forgetting to check and catching errors. If you don’t, it’s much more painful pulling an expensive substrate from a digital press.

What can happen? Perhaps some images are delivered in lower than appropriate resolution or in the incorrect color space (RGB). Some graphics could be delivered as Pantone colors; rarely available as a separate ink on a digital printer. A font could be missing, the entire graphic could be larger than the substrate size, or cutting paths could be missing. Or, on top of that, files might need to be adjusted to your own facility’s printing requirements.

A good preflight tool will offer a list of digital checks, customized to your shop’s RIPs and printers (Figure 1). It is the starting point for a true workflow. Problems are reported automatically before going to print, so operators know what has to be changed (if anything). There’s no need to drag the file into design software and lose time trying to figure out why the file might not print properly.

Preflighting can be fully automated with a good workflow. A print shop typically builds its preflight profiles, and they are executed via an automated workflow. If operator intervention is required, the workflow will usually send a notification and the job will be put on hold, allowing the operator to check and correct the file. When the file is fixed, the workflow will resume.

Challenge: Make quick, required edits to a file, without retuning to the native application Even if a preflighting error is discovered, or a last-minute change is required, the challenge is to edit it.


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