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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

At this point there are preparation functions that are mostly done manually. Some of these manual functions are redundant. Some are custom. The redundant tasks are those that are repeated day after day for the same clients, on the same substrate, on the same press, on the same sheet size—and boring the heck out of the people in prepress. Correct sheet size, color-control bars, print information, bleeds, pagination, trim marks, and even placing multiple images on the same sheet can be automated upon receipt of information uploaded from the client and information that is associated with the file. This is done by automated imposition software.

Not all jobs can be imposed automatically, but if we just eliminate manual setup for half of the jobs, these jobs will slide right past the bottleneck created by human touch and move them to the next stage, which is to trapping if it’s for an analog process or to color-management decisions if it is a digital print job.

Prepress robotics can move the files to the right software and to the right hot folder with automated functions already assigned and get these jobs done while the humans do jobs that require custom decisions and customized actions (Figure 3). Automated preparation and print-color control are set up by people who know the process and the requirements for their printing. The opportunity for accuracy is improved because it is no longer guesswork. Decisions are made about trapping automatically, but someone should inspect the work at this point because all files are different. A specialist can check the result of the trapping quickly and head off any potential trapping problems. The good results are that the decisions in imposition and trapping are rock solid, consistently accurate, and fast.

Again, jobs that are not standard at this point are kicked out for someone to inspect or fix. The number of jobs that require inspection and tweaking will start to decrease as people start to realize that standardizing files at the beginning of the workflow eliminates the need to touch the jobs as they travel through the robotics-based workflow.


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