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Prepress Robotics

(October 2011) posted on Tue Sep 27, 2011

Find out how making an automated assembly line in your prepress department can help boost quality, productivity, and morale.

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By Mike Ruff

I recently read an article by Pearl Tesler, titled, Universal Robots: The History and Working of Robotics. In it, she said, “If you think robots are mainly the stuff of space movies, think again. Right now, all over the world, robots are on the move. They’re painting cars at Ford plants, assembling Milano cookies for Pepperidge Farms, walking into live volcanoes, driving trains in Paris, and defusing bombs in Northern Ireland.”

I contend that robotics can do many of the repetitive tasks that the graphics industry does to every file that comes through the door. Today, I hope to build a case for prepress robotics—technology that is here now and is ready to improve your productivity, accuracy, and profitability.

What is prepress robotics?
Prepress robotics is just a term that identifies automation solutions in prepress and print functions. If you think about it, most of the redundant tasks are in this part of print production. Robotics is a term for the replacement of a human function—not a replacement of the human, but the function that a human would be doing. The human (hopefully) possesses attributes that could be used for higher level tasks that require good analytical decisions and make us more money if we free the humans from the lower level, repetitive work.

A new challenge
Market conditions are changing quickly in the graphics industry. Change is driven by technology—faster computers, RIPs, printers, and file transfers. Technology should give us more time because we can do more work in less time and do more important work by eliminating redundant tasks. However, technology change will cause us as much pain as pleasure if we do not embrace what is available. Customers want their jobs finished faster now because they know we can now do them faster. Customers want their jobs at a lower cost, with better accuracy, to a specific color data set, and on demand. If we don’t do it, someone else will.

Is the answer faster equipment? It helps, but can you really afford to keep buying the fastest and most expensive machine every two years? The faster equipment game is hard to win. While there is a need to stay current in speed, there is also a need to pay off the equipment you have invested in and then squeeze as much life as possible out of it until ROI is realized and competition demands more speed.


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